Area high school bands travel around the state, and sometimes beyond, for competitions, but this weekend, a number of local groups won't have far to go.
The 51st annual Band-O-Rama will take place Saturday at Don Drumm Stadium in Marietta, with a dozen bands performing, including the host Marietta High School Wall of Sound. Other Washington County bands marching that evening are Fort Frye, Warren and Waterford high schools.
"It's been a tradition long since before I got here," said John Laswell, Waterford High School's band director of four years, about competing at Band-O-Rama. "It's a big deal for the community here to go to that one. That's the one a lot of parents can go to."
It also provides an opportunity to compete against local bands, something that doesn't usually happen at other competitions, Laswell said. On Sept. 22, both Waterford and Marietta participated in the third annual Akron Zips Invitational Marching Band Festival, but many of the other schools hailed from Columbus, Akron and Lorain County.
"This will be the first time that we really get to ... rank ourselves with the bands from our area," Laswell said. "That is another thing that the kids really look forward to" since many of them have friends in other local bands, he said.
The event also allows bands to qualify for the state finals, if they haven't already done so.
If you go
What: 51st annual Band-O-Rama.
When: 5 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Don Drumm Stadium, Marietta.
Who: 12 bands, including the Marietta High School Wall of Sound performing in exhibition.
After a half-century of festivals, there aren't any format changes in store for this year's Band-O-Rama, said Jeremy Grosklos, assistant band director/color guard instructor and co-chairman of the event. Bands will perform every 15 minutes, with a dinner break at 7:15 p.m. and another recess before awards are presented at 9:15.
As the host band, the Wall of Sound will be performing in exhibition, so it won't be eligible for any awards. But the band will still get comments and ratings from the judges.
"It just helps us improve on our own for other competitions," Grosklos said.
Not being in competition creates a different atmosphere for the band than at the other eight events in which they'll be taking part this year.
"We don't have the pressure of competing, although we still have the pressure of doing well," Grosklos said.
There are also plenty of other responsibilities that "you kind of take for granted when you go to other shows," Grosklos said. In addition to organizing the activities ahead of time, Wall of Sound members, along with parents and band boosters, will staff the event, doing everything from serving concessions to acting as guides for the visiting bands.
The local event is the longest running band competition in Ohio, and was at one time a community-wide event, featuring a parade through town.
"A lot of people remember Band-O-Ramas from way back when," Grosklos said.
As a member of the Wall of Sound when he was in high school, Grosklos said he felt a sense of pride when the event was held, as people complimented the city and the facilities.
Waterford kicks the competition off at 5:30 p.m., followed by Caldwell. Fort Frye performs at 6:15 p.m., and at 8, Warren is the first act after the dinner break. Marietta will take to the field last, performing at 8:45 p.m.