Football games are like practices for many local high school marching bands.
When the games are over, the band members pack up their instruments and head to competitions all over the state on Saturdays.
The grueling schedule is worth it to students who say the competitions are all about them.
"The football games are fun to watch and you get to play, but in competition, you're the one in the spotlight," said Justin Call, a junior trumpet player at Rock Hill High. "It's not about the football team."
Fifteen bands from the Carolinas will compete today at District Three Stadium in Rock Hill during the Olde English Festival of Bands. Rock Hill and Northwestern high schools are hosting the event and will give exhibition performances.
Band competitions start in late September and happen every weekend until the state championships in late October or early November.
With today's event, competing so close to home could give local bands an edge.
"When the crowd's in the stands cheering for the kids it gives them that confidence they need," said Lewisville Marching Lions director Daniel Nuckolls. "The advantage is the family members of these kids that don't get to travel to all these away competitions get to come and see them."
To get performance-ready, bands start practicing during camps in July. Once school starts, band members devote class time and several afternoons a week to practice.
"It is very busy," said Larry Wells, director of Northwestern's Purple Regiment. "It's very hectic. It's very time consuming. But band kids are sort of a special breed -- they love band, they love to perform, they love to reach new heights, and they love to compete."
Performance routines range from classical music to the songs of "Moulin Rouge."
Like their athletic counterparts, band members are caught in the intensity of school rivalries. But this year, longtime rivals Rock Hill High and Northwestern are in different divisions.
"Every year we compete, it's Rock Hill High versus Northwestern," said Min-Joo Kim, band president at Northwestern. "It's still a rivalry between the two schools, but now since we have two different divisions, we just kind of respect each other and cheer for each other more since we're not competing against each other."
Northwestern's possible new rival? Clover High School. Clover band director Eric Wells is Larry Wells' son.
"If we're going to lose to anybody, I certainly don't mind it being Northwestern," Eric Wells said. "Win or lose against each other, it's bittersweet."
• What: A high school marching band competition
• When: 12:45 p.m. today. Events run most of the day with an awards ceremony at 9:30 p.m.
• Where: District Three Stadium in Rock Hill
• Local bands competing: Great Falls, Lewisville, Indian Land, Chester, Andrew Jackson, South Pointe, Lancaster and Clover. Rock Hill and Northwestern, which are hosting the competition, will give exhibition performances but won't compete.
• Tickets: $8 at the gate
• More info: Call Northwestern band director Larry Wells at 981-1225