Festival of Champions attracts 24 competing bands

In total, 24 high school bands participated in the 36th annual Festival of Champions at Murray State. || Jordie Oetken/The News

In total, 24 high school bands participated in the 36th annual Festival of Champions at Murray State. || Jordie Oetken/The News

The Racer Band hosted the 36th annual Festival of Champions on Saturday, Sept. 22. The event premiered 24 high school bands as part of the ceremony. High school bands from Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and Arkansas competed for the title of grand champion Saturday in Roy Stewart Stadium.

Director of bands Dennis L. Johnson said the caliber of the festival and the participating bands was of the highest in the region.

“These bands are representative of some of the finest in our region and their appearance is certainly due in part to the quality and national reputation of the Festival of Champions,” Johnson said. “It is indeed a testimony to our festival that so many fine bands will travel such great distances to participate.”

The competition was an all day event and began at 9 a.m. and lasted for more than 12 hours. The preliminary competition kicked off with the class A bands and continued until 4 p.m. After the Racer Band performed in exhibition for an hour, the finals competition began at 5 p.m.

Riley Nance, flute section leader in the Racer Band and senior from Puryear, Tn., said it was a pleasure to meet and play for the high school bands that attended the festival.

“Festival of Champions is an exhilarating day! Band members from all over the region come to perform but while they are here, they get to see Racer Band perform,” said Nance. “I love getting to meet students who are passionate about the same things I am. It is a long day but all the work and effort we put into it is completely worth it.”

The 24 bands were broken into five classes based on size. The smallest bands were in the A class, the largest were in AAAAA. After the preliminary competition, twelve bands moved on to the finals competition.

John Fannin, assistant director of bands, said because of the size of this year’s festival, the finals schedule had to be revised to accommodate.

“Due to the very large number of bands involved, we have altered our finals competition schedule so that all bands have a greater chance of participating,” said Fannin.

The schedule depended on the results of the preliminary competition; the top bands from each class were selected into the finals. The seven highest overall scores from all classes were then entered.

A trophy was given to each of the 12 bands as well as an award for best guard, best percussion, music, best effects, marching, best brass, best woodwinds, reserve grand champion, grand champion and the traveling trophy which is given to the grand champions. In the end, Murray High was named grand champion.

Later in the fall, those who missed the Festival of Champions, the Kentucky Education Television will feature the festival in a one-hour syndicated program. The program will feature approximately 90-second coverage of each of the bands.

Said Fannin: “This will certainly give the bands some well earned television exposure in addition to showcasing our festival and university facilities.”

Story by Alex Berg, Staff writer.