State Fair Park was a musical place to be on Monday as about 1,800 student musicians from 40 Oklahoma middle school and high school marching bands paraded along a half-mile route inside the fairgrounds. It was the fair's 61st annual Oklahoma Band Day, and the students competed for trophies and cash awards.
“I think it's cool that it's at the fair,” said Avery Burgard, 13, an eighth-grade flute player in the Clinton Middle School marching band. “And you get to skip school.”
The bands competed in four categories in their classifications, based on school sizes. The categories were color guard, drum line, drum major and overall band.
“The students, they get so excited representing their schools. That to me is amazing,” said Melinda Parsons, senior manager of attractions and entertainment at the fair. Band Day is one of her favorite events at the fair, she said, because she was a member of her high school band.
“These are students that have got something going on. They're being part of their school, really doing something.”
The competition has grown each year, Parsons said, and her goal is to eventually attract 50 bands to the event. It's free, and all state marching bands are invited to participate, she said.
For El Reno High School band director Marshall Douglas, the best part of the event is the camaraderie the students feel being together in such a large group of like-minded teens.
“They get to drill-off and drum-off against each other, join together and play music with one another,” he said. He's been bringing his bands to Oklahoma Band Day at the fair since he started as band director at El Reno High School 13 years ago, he said.
Normally, “we're across the stadium from each other. We're supposed to be enemies,” he said. “Here we're not enemies. We're one big happy family.”
The groups were judged by five judges on a variety of skills including the execution of melodies and harmonies, drum line cadences, balance, footwork, alignment of rank and file, flag work techniques and choreography.