High-stepping bands invade Mercer

awoolen@macon.comNovember 4, 2013 

Football isn’t the only thing that draws a crowd at Mercer University.

Deejay’s pumped out the jams and marching bands showed off their high-stepping style during the Original Battles of the Bands Macon Marching Band Festival on Sunday.

Once they had gotten through the half hour wait to get into the stadium because of bag checks, the standing room only crowd cheered, hollered and danced to the music as a dozen bands performed for the crowd.

Middle and high school bands, along with four college bands performed music that ranged from The Temptations to Michael Jackson and Beyonce.

The Atlanta Hawks Drumline performed a few routines with their cymbals crashing and bass drums thumping.

The event was to promote the 31st annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which will be held in March, said Brandon Gardner, program coordinator for the CBF.

“This kind of exceeded our expectations,” he said looking around at the mass of humanity packed into the stadium.

At one point, the announcer had to move the bands from the visitors seating to sit on the ground in the endzone to accommodate the number of people who tried to crowd into the home stands.

A band exhibition of this caliber hasn’t performed been in Macon since 2006, according to Gardner’s calculations.

Part of the money collected from ticket sales would be given to the participating schools, Gardner said.

Among the attendees were Bibb County Board of Education member Tom Hudson, who fondly remembered a time when people would go to football games to see the Southwest High School marching band perform.

“They were legendary,” he said.

For these students, it was a chance to show off their halftime shows as well as their talents in front of a large crowd.

“I think its a great opportunity to give students exposure,” Hudson said.

Both Hudson and current Southwest band director Dominique Lane hoped the battle would be a yearly event.

Southwest’s band members sat in the endzone and watched as other bands performed. The local band would be the last to go as the sun set on the stadium.

Drum major Shauntavia Smith said the large crowd was a little intimidating but the senior at Southwest was also excited about the prospect of being able to perform on such a stage.

She showed her poise to the younger members by calming their fears.

“I told them ‘it’s like being a part of the circus,’ ” Smith said.

Along with Southwest, Central and Northeast high schools also performed. Bands from Fort Valley State University and Morehouse College were also showcased.

“Macon is a music city,” Hudson said. “When we start collaborating, everybody benefits.”

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