MOULTRIE, Ga. – Colquitt County director of bands Liz Savage hopes the community will turn out to give the 50th Regiment an appropriate sendoff when it leaves next Sunday afternoon for its trip to march in the Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The sendoff will be more than just an opportunity to wish the marching band well as travels to New York City and Philadelphia. It also will be a chance to congratulate the 5-0 for its competition success.
After the band earned the grand championship at The Sound of Gold competition in Waycross recently, it followed with another outstanding performance in Jesup.
At the Sound of Gold, the 50th Regiment earned straight superior ratings, best in class field percussion, best in class pit percussion, best in class band, best in division field and pit percussion, best in division band, best overall brass and best overall percussion.
The color guard was third place overall and drum majors were third place overall in the competition that included 17 other bands from Georgia and Florida.
And although the 50th Regiment was third overall in Jesup, it was just 0.03 points behind second place Effingham County. Houston County finished first in a strong, competitive field.
“Third place was not a negative at all,” Savage said. “It was fantastic. The bands there were as good, if not better, than those at Waycross.
“We were competing against bands that had 200-plus members in them. Both of our performances were exceptional.”
It has been an especially rewarding fall for Savage, her staff and her band. Not only did the 50th Regiment compete well, it also received some much-appreciated positive feedback after performing during halftime of the Colquitt County football game at Lowndes.
The 50th Regiment’s success was somewhat unexpected with 112 of the 150 members being in either their first or second year in the band.
“Just how much sharper the band was musically this year was fantastic,” Savage said. “The hunger they showed was the difference.”
Savage said she tries to focus on “the journey” while teaching and encourages band members to compete with themselves.
And the approach worked exceptionally well this year.
“It’s huge for these kids to have these kinds of awards,” she said.
Savage said she wondered during camp if perhaps the band had bitten off more than it could chew with its “Mask of Zorro” show.
Then, midway through September, “everything started clicking,” she said.
“We had the whole show down in September and we’ve never done that before,” she said. “Little by little, piece by piece, everything started coming together.”
And while the Waycross performance was certainly worth the grand championship trophy, Savage said the run-through on the Thursday before the competition was its best of the year.
“Everything just clicked that day,” she said.
The band has been practicing recently to build up stamina and endurance for the 2-mile march in the Thanksgiving parade in Philadelphia.
On Thursday, the band will practice at night to help prepare the members for what are expected to be cooler temperatures on Thanksgiving.
She said the 115 members of the 50th Regiment plus staff and chaperones will board buses at the high school and leave at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24, for the trip north.
The trip includes a three-day sightseeing stay in New York City before it leaves Wednesday, Nov. 27, to travel to Philadelphia to march in what is billed as the oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade in the country.
“We’d love for the community to come out and send us off,” she said.
Not that Savage believes the community hasn’t been giving plenty of love to this year’s marching musicians. She said she is appreciative of the support the band has received, especially at its halftime performances.
“They’ve applauded our kids,” she said. “They’ve given them a standing ovation.
“The kids notice those things and it has been really cool to see it happen this year.”
Savage said the entire parade will be shown on the ABC-TV website. The 50th Regiment will be marching early in the parade.
Savage and her staff will begin working on plans for next year’s show shortly after Christmas.
She will be looking for one that fans at the football games can enjoy and that also will work well in competition.
This year’s Latin-themed program “hit the nail on the head,” she said.
Much of the work done next spring will be geared toward next fall’s performances.
“This year’s success was started by a really good spring,” she said.
And she does concede there will be a little more pressure than usual in the preparations for 2020.
“We’ve never had to top anything before,” she said. “Where we go from here is the scariest part.”