Festival of Champions ends, 40th anniversary plan begins

Jenny Rohl/The News High school bands from across Kentucky compete in Festival of Champions Saturday.
Jenny Rohl/The News High school bands from across Kentucky compete in Festival of Champions Saturday.

Jenny Rohl/The News
High school bands from across Kentucky compete in Festival of Champions Saturday.

This year marked the 39th annual Festival of Champions, a regional high school band competition hosted by Murray State’s Racer Band and music department.

Festival of Champions saw another successful year, with 15 high school marching bands traveling to Murray to compete against each other, once in a preliminary round and again in final competition.

Madisonville North Hopkins took home the grand champion traveling trophy at the end of the night. Its 2014 marching show “Musica Apasionado” earned a final score of 88 out of 100. 

Daviess County was the reserve grand champion with its show “The Red Brick Road” and a score of 87.

Calloway County came in third with a score of 84.1, Marshall County in fourth place with a score of 81.45 and Murray High came in fifth with a score of 81.45.

While Festival of Champions may be a high school competition, Racer Band took over the home field and pleased the audience with its renditions of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, “Feelin’ Good” by Michael Buble and “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars.

In its second performance, Racer Band performed “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals, “Tom Sawyer” by Rush and “Talk Dirty to Me” by Jason Derulo.

John Fannin, assistant director of Racer Band, said Racer Band always delivers in its performances, but Festival of Champions gives the group a chance to perform for a special kind of crowd.

“A marching band audience where everybody knows all the technical aspects of what goes into making that show come together gives Racer Band the rock star experience,” Fannin said. “At Festival of Champions everyone in the band feels like a rock star.”

But it’s not all fun and games for Racer Band and the music department at Festival of Champions, he said.

The work that goes into making Festival of Champions the biggest competition in the region takes all 250 Racer Band members.

“The logistics of Festival of Champions are astronomical,” Fannin said. “The student leaders start getting ready for it about a month before. We have to set up all the work stations, we have students parking cars, we have a shuttle service and student leadership helps with all of that. We have students showing bands to their warm up area, we have students running concessions, selling T-shirts and programs. Every single person in the band is involved.”

With the close of this year’s Festival of Champions, planning the 40th anniversary of the competition begins. 

“We have to reserve the stadium, hire the judges, and make sure the CFSB Center doesn’t put on a concert the same day we have our competition,” Fannin said. “We have to prepare Racer Band for 2015, by getting the copyrights for the music and putting the whole show together. These are just all the preplanning things we have to take care of. It’s a yearlong process to get ready for it.”

Though there are no concrete plans for the next Festival of Champions, the brainstorming will begin next month.

Story by Taylor InmanStaff writer