All Hands on the Field

Norton Music Boosters Association
Hosting a field show event takes coordination, organization, planning and many volunteers.

Three minutes before the first Sonic BOOM! marching band competition was set to begin in the fall of 2015, the Franklin (Tennessee) High School Band Boosters canceled the event. The reason? Inclement weather.

“The storm rolled in seemingly out of nowhere, and we had a torrential downpour,” explains PJ Littleton, vice president of fundraising. “One of the things you learn when you host a competitive field show is that Mother Nature may not be kind.”

Another takeaway from the event: “Don’t order etched glass trophies,” Littleton says. “It is much easier and cheaper to change the date on the small brass plates on traditional trophies. You really can’t reuse the glass or acrylic ones.”

Littleton also recommends looking for local sponsors. Franklin’s show is named “Sonic BOOM!” because the owner of a local Sonic Drive-In restaurant franchise helps defray some of the school’s costs.

Of course, no one sets out to plan an event with the goal of canceling, but the Franklin boosters made the most out of the situation. “We looked at it as a dry run,” Littleton says. “We felt well prepared, and we had contingency plans in place for almost every situation. Unfortunately, there usually is no contingency plan for inclement weather.”

The boosters graciously explained the situation to the visiting bands, all of which came back this past year. “We had a great event with about eight participating bands,” Littleton says. “We purposefully planned to start small and grow as we gained more experience, to not bite off more than we can chew. We already have commitments from seven bands for next year.”

Logistical Lessons

The Norton (Ohio) Music Boosters Association has hosted the annual Art in Motion Marching Band Invitational for 26 years and is pleased to welcome many of the same visiting bands each year. Still, the boosters have encountered new challenges that require “all hands on deck,” according to Cheri Runninger, past president and current treasurer.

For the Art in Motion’s 25th anniversary, the event was held in the school’s new stadium, but because the parking lot had not yet been completed, some difficulties were encountered in transporting spectators to the stadium. “We had 16 bands participating that year, and things did not run as smoothly as we had hoped,” Runninger says. “With so many bands attending, you have to provide ample spectator parking. And you need to keep in mind that the demand for parking will increase as the larger schools perform later in the evening.”

It all comes down to logistics. “If you are hosting a show, you need to have the logistics down—where the buses and trailers will park, where the bands will warm up, how the bands will get on and off the field,” Runninger says, noting that special attention must be paid to crowd control. “Having a good grasp of the logistics is key to making the visiting bands want to come back. In fact, we now do a walkthrough of how the logistics will flow—how the bands will come in, where they will sit after they perform, how the spectators get in—all of it.”

To ensure the logistics of its show is in place, the Franklin High School Band Boosters association assigns volunteers to each part of the field show process, from parking to traffic, concessions to hospitality. “It takes a lot of bodies to make everything run smoothly,” Littleton says. “Our approach is to have small groups responsible for each part of the process, so our event runs like a well-oiled machine.”

The Franklin boosters group uses online tools to recruit and communicate with volunteers. “We use Charms [Office Assistant] for many events, and we have found that SignUpGenius gets around some of the limitations of Charms,” Littleton says. “Because everyone uses their phone these days, we also use Remind for boosters, parents, and students, and we have used GroupMe to set up real-time communications among committee chairpeople and volunteer groups.”

Community Camaraderie

The Leander (Texas) Band Boosters organization coordinates the planning of its annual district-wide Festival of Bands. “We host the event at our stadium for the high schools and several of the middle schools in our area,” says Elizabeth Gibson, president. “This is a chance for all the schools and parents to watch each other’s shows in a non-competitive environment. It is a showcase for our community.”

While not competitive, the event still requires planning, organization, and coordination. “The directors coordinate with each other to find the best weekend,” Gibson says.

Leander also involves the students in the day’s logistics. “We set up chairs and get the stadium set up,” Gibson explains.

Leander’s parent volunteers sign up for additional jobs. “They also run concessions, coordinate parking, and usher the bands on and off the field,” Gibson says. “They are always going above and beyond for our students.”

And like Norton and Franklin High Schools have noticed, the visiting bands appreciate the effort. “It is exciting every year to see our bands support each other, and we always hear such positive comments from the visiting schools,” Gibson says. “It is great to see the camaraderie in our community.”

Photo of Norton (Ohio) Music Boosters Association courtesy of Cheri Runninger.
Photo of Franklin Tennessee High School Band Boosters courtesy of PJ Littleton.

About author

Stacy N. Hackett

Stacy N. Hackett is an award-winning freelance writer and technical editor based in Southern California. She writes frequently about software, marching bands, and the pet industry. Stacy is the proud mom of a sousaphone player in the Oregon State University Marching Band, and she has experience on the field as a former bells player with the Los Alamitos (California) High School marching band.

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