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The high school marching band season culminates today at the Indiana State Fair, continuing a longtime tradition showcasing the top bands in the state.
Montgomery County United Marching Band & Guard will join dozens of other schools for the annual contest sanctioned by the Central Indiana Track Show Association. Schools compete for a place in the “Sweet 16” group of finalists, which then go after the top prize at the Hoosier Lottery Grandstand.
The preliminary performance is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. Finalists will be announced at approximately 4:45 p.m.
“They have the framework and now it’s up to the kids to sell it,” said assistant director Samantha Cotten, as the group prepared for one of the final run-throughs of the show Thursday morning at Crawfordsville High School.
The 49-member group, wrapping up a second season as the combined forces of Crawfordsville, North Montgomery and Southmont, are looking to return to the finals after coming in just under the wire last summer. MCU finished 15th overall last year. The group debuted in 2017, before North Montgomery joined the ensemble.
MCU kicked off the season at the Spirit of Sound contest July 20 in Muncie, placing 11th with a score of 59.45.
The group went into back-to-back contests last weekend, finishing 9th at the Anderson Tartan Tournament of Bands with a score of 58.45, and taking 12th at the Drums of Winchester with a score of 63.55.
“I’ve been pleased with the growth I’ve seen in the students over the course of the season and they keep working harder [and are more] focused,” said co-director Andy Simpkins, who also serves as North Montgomery’s band director.
Joining Simpkins in the director’s tower is Southmont’s Elizabeth Newnum. A team of auxiliary directors, staff, parents and siblings assist the group at competitions.
The theme of this year’s show is Pegasus, based on the Greek myth, with a soloist portraying the winged horse and guard members playing the muses. Local radio station manager Dave Peach provides voice-over narration for the show.
“We’re trying to tell the story of all the arts battling each other but no art is the best,” Cotten said.
MCU has three other schools in its sights as the competition plays out.
Richmond and Mt. Summit’s Blue River Valley bookended Montgomery County in Winchester, and Alexandria-Monroe was at the group’s heels at earlier contests.
Jay County, Anderson and Kokomo dominated the season. Noblesville was the top band at last year’s state fair.
Other area schools are vying for a spot in the finals.
Western Boone is set to kick off the preliminary round at 9 a.m., followed by Covington at 1:15. Tri-West is scheduled to perform at 4:12 p.m.