Kansas University's 43rd Band Day got off to a high-spirited start Saturday morning with almost 3,000 students from more than 50 junior high and high school bands marching through downtown Lawrence in the annual parade.
Children of all ages lined the streets perched on their parents' shoulders or on top of cars. Youngsters clapped, danced, waved to the musicians and joked with the Jayhawk and Lawrence Lion mascots. Adults, armed with cameras, set up lawnchairs and converted pickup truck beds into temporary bleachers.
Although clouds threatened rain, spectators and bandmembers said they appreciated the cool morning, and skies soon cleared to make for perfect parade weather.
THE KU MARCHING Jayhawks, cheerleaders and Crimson Girls led the procession, followed by the Lawrence High Lions Marching Band. The parade of 55 other school bands traveled from Seventh and Massachusetts streets to South Park at 11th Street, where the musicians boarded buses to head for KU's Memorial Stadium. There the groups practiced for their halftime performance at the KU-Oregon State University football game.
KU band director Bob Foster said the breezy morning turned into a sweltering afternoon, with temperatures reaching the mid-90s. Plenty of water was made available for the musicians and students were told to dress comfortably.
"One kid fell from the heat at halftime, but with that many kids, that was awfully lucky," Foster said.
BEFORE THE parade, LHS marchers tuned their instruments and mingled around the corner in front of Liberty Hall, 642 Mass. Renee Strnad and Kelley Hickman, both sophomores, said they were excited to participate in their first Band Day. At midnight Friday, most LHS band members paid a surprise visit to Jay Smith, the high school band director, and serenaded him, the girls said.
Rodger Drake, band director for Chase County High School, said he has accompanied musicians to KU's Band Day on and off for nearly 20 years. "It's a tradition, and anymore, everything seems more important than the old traditions," he said. "I think traditions are very important."
Drake said Band Day provides musical inspiration to many performers. "It lets them see other communities and hear other bands to help them improve," he said.
MICHELLE HORNER and Angie Womack, cheerleaders for Perry-Lecompton High School, said they participate in a number of band days at various schools. "It encourages all the bands and it encourages spirit," said Michelle, a sophomore.
The parade also demonstrated the talents often unnoticed in some of the smaller school districts, said Angie, a senior. "It shows that there's small towns out there who like to do this kind of stuff."
Curtis Zimmerman, a fifth-grader at Cordley Elementary School, said he comes out for the Band Day parade every year and he only had one word for this year's show: "Excellent!"