You can hear the roars of the crowd and the reverbs of the brass instruments from a mile away as bands poured in from across the state to compete in the largest event hosted by the Band of the Braves.
"It takes an entire year to prepare for this event," said Band of the Braves Director James McMillan, "we're looking at 1700 student performers, and that doesn't include the audience. We've had years where we filled up Braves stadium, and I believe the capacity is close to 8000."
The event began as a fundraiser organized by former band director, Clint Raburn, who saw it as an opportunity to use the Baldwin County School District's extraordinary facilities and infrastructure to give back to the larger Georgia community. "There are a lot of places that want to host a marching band competition, but they don't have the ability to do so," said McMillan. "I'm just glad that I'm able to continue the tradition of keeping this thing rolling."
Band performances began around 1:00 pm and went well into the evening. Bands from around the region competed in several categories including Band, Color Guard, Drum Major, and Percussion, with one of five major classes, A, AA, AAA, AAAA, and AAAAA. The band programs were judged in a caption style contest in three major categories: music performance, visual performance, and music/visual effect.
As the host band, the Baldwin Band of the Braves did not compete, but instead performed as the exhibition band and handed out the trophies. Lowndes County High School took overall third place, Jefferson High School took second, and the grand trophy went to Jackson County High School. BHS Principal Jason Flanders was on hand to deliver the trophies as a special guest.
"It's a service for us," said McMillan, "an opportunity to serve the state of Georgia and the marching band community." The Oconee Classic has the distinguished honor of kicking off the marching band competition season across the state. Although the Band of the Braves did not compete on Saturday, the competition gives them a chance to see the work other bands are doing.
The Band of the Braves will compete at the Superbowl of Sound next Saturday in Carrollton, GA, followed by the Legacy of Champions on October 8th and they'll end this year's run at the Heart of Georgia on October 22nd in Warner Robins. For more information on the Band of the Braves and a full schedule, you can visit their webpage here.