The Heart of America Marching Festival attracted an estimated 10,000 people Saturday to Haskell Stadium.
More than 3,500 students from 29 high school marching bands presented a daylong halftime show for music lovers Saturday afternoon, competing in what is the crowning moment of the season for many of the bands.
"This is a wonderfully receptive audience," said Bob Foster, director of the Kansas University Band, which co-sponsored the eighth annual Heart of America Marching Festival with the Kansas Music Educators Assn., Northeast Kansas District.
Foster estimated that as many as 10,000 students, parents and spectators attended the festival throughout the day at Haskell Stadium on the Haskell Indian Nations University campus. In the past, the festival has been at KU's Memorial Stadium, but that was off-limits this weekend because construction crews are replacing the track at the stadium.
"You try to make a visual picture fit with what you're hearing," said Avian Bear, director of the Free State High School marching band, which received a I rating Saturday.
Five judges from across the country assigned I, II and III ratings to the bands, with a I being the highest. Lawrence High School also received a I rating.
Bear said creativity and outstanding choreography were rewarded.
Free State color guard members whipped out trays while the band played "Be our Guest" from "Beauty and the Beast" during their movie song medley.
"You try to be as visual as you can without carrying 10,000 props," Bear said.
Curtis Moxley, a junior at Olathe North High School, said the festival gave students and band directors a chance to watch other routines.
"We try to watch as many of them as we can, and we can compare them," said Moxley, a percussionist, as he waited while bandmates positioned themselves for a group photo.
Tom Moss, director of Shawnee Mission Northwest High School's Marching Cougar Pride, said Saturday's festival was the only rated competition his band would travel to this year.
"This is the biggest thing we do all year," Moss said. "(The students) really get into it."
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