High school bands from Kansas, Missouri and even one from South Dakota will march through the afternoon and into the night at Memorial Stadium, where Kansas University's Marching Jayhawks will cap off today's 15th annual Heart of America Marching Festival.
"It is a good opportunity to see in general the best high school bands in this part of the state," said Tom Stidham, KU's associate director of bands.
Musicians from Lawrence and Free State high schools will be among the competitors at the event, which includes 20 high school bands and is sponsored by KU and the Kansas Music Educators Assn.'s Northeast District.
The event typically draws bands from larger schools than the ones that attend Band Day in September, Stidham said. This year, a majority of bands will travel from schools in the Kansas City and Wichita areas.
St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park will take the field first at 11:45 a.m. The school has fielded a marching band for the first time this year.
Missouri bands include Blue Springs South and Fulton, and Washington High School has traveled from Sioux Falls, S.D.
Other Kansas bands performing include Blue Valley North, Blue Valley Northwest, Shawnee Mission West, Topeka West, Olathe East, Shawnee Mission North, Olathe South, Derby, Shawnee Mission South, Goddard, Shawnee Mission Northwest and Hutchinson.
The bands will be divided into classes and judged based on their size.
"Marching band competition today is certainly a big deal in certain pockets of the country," Stidham said.
Each band will perform throughout the day with Lawrence High on the field at 2:30 p.m. and Free State at 4:30 p.m.
The finals begin at 7 p.m., and the KU band is scheduled to play at 9:45 p.m. An awards ceremony will follow.
The National Weather Service forecasters in Topeka are predicting a 90 percent chance of rain today but mainly before 1 p.m. Stidham said one year the marching festival was halted because of lightning in the area.
Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens, and free for preschool children.