WARNER ROBINS -- Once a year at McConnell-Talbert Stadium in Warner Robins, the band isnt just the half-time show.
Bands from around the state performed Saturday in the 15th annual Heart of Georgia Marching Band Invitational. The event is put on by the Warner Robins High School band, and is its largest fundraiser.
About 900 band members from 24 schools participated, and over 1,000 attendees were expected
For the band members, it offered an opportunity to play in front of an audience without half the crowd getting up to go for a hot dog. In fact, the exits were blocked during each performance.
It makes us feel like the center of attention, said Faith Engle, a sophomore who plays flute in the First Presbyterian Day School band. Usually we are there for the football game, but here it make us feel more important. It makes us more excited.
It was the bands first year in the competition. Director Jonathan Baker said he chose to come in part because it is close by, but there was another reason.
It has a reputation of being a really well run competition and festival, he said.
The Warner Robins High School band gives an exhibition performance, but does not compete.
Band director Todd Howell said the festival is among the largest in the state. Students, he said, enjoy the experience of playing for a crowd that came just for them.
Its really nice to have a day where we just showcase band performance, and they know the crowd is a band crowd, he said. Everybody here understands band and appreciates it.
The Warner Robins High School band boosters and members of the band serve as volunteers for the event.
The first performance began at 11 a.m. and performances continued throughout the day, ending with the largest schools, and largest crowds, in the evening. While most of the attendees are band parents, some come just because they enjoy band performances, said Theresa Christian, president of the band boosters.
Each band performs its half-time show, and some are quite unique. Many of the Jackson County High School band members wore black-and-white prison stripe uniforms in a show based on a cops and robbers theme.
Donna Gilbert of Warner Robins came to see her granddaughter, Amie Wainwright, who is a member of the Taylor County band. But Gilbert got there early, and planned to stay after the Taylor County performance.
I wanted to see the other bands, she said. Its been really good. Its amazing what some of them do.
Band members said they also enjoy watching the other bands play. First Presbyterian Day School drum major Sarah Andrews said some of their show was inspired by things they saw bands do in a competition they attended last year.
Theres a lot of cool bands here that do a lot of cool stuff, she said.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.