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Marching band festival celebrates 50 years

One thing that has remained a constant draw for spectators each Red Flannel Day is the annual Red Flannel Marching Band Competition. It’s a great chance to see phenomenal marching bands from all across the state, including the Cedar Springs Marching Red Hawks. And this year they are celebrating 50 years, which makes it one of the longest, if not the longest, marching band festival in the state of Michigan.

According to Patricia Eary, of the Cedar Springs music boosters, at least 91 different bands have performed throughout the years at the competition, and neighboring Tri-County has been here every year since 1966. Cedar Springs always does an exhibition at the end.

We know, according to the Cedar Springs Story, by Sue Harrison and Donna DeJonge, that a band festival was held during the Red Flannel Celebration in 1956 for the bicentennial. But it may not have become an annual event until 1960. The 1961 high school yearbook refers to the annual RF day band competition. The 1962 yearbook states that the concession stand at Skinner Field was constructed in memory of Carol Winter, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Winter. Band directors over the years included: 1957-1958 Mr. Leavenworth; 1958-1959 Mr. Evans; 1961 Mr. Sheffer; 1962 Charles Hasselbring; 1963-1965 Leon Bradley; 1965 to mid 70s Ted Bazany; then Dale Working, Patricia Page, Steve Foote, Bob Persky.  Page and Foote may have been assistant directors.  Then it was Robert Robuck, Jim Greene, Adam Borst & Ryan Shaw. Pam McComb and Linda Martino were also band directors for a short length of time.

“Many of these directors have been invited to attend this year but some cannot make it due to other commitments,” said Eary.

1973 marked the first year that cassette recorders were used for judging. Award presenters have included Gerald R. Ford (when he was minority speaker of the House).  University bands that have performed at the competition (as an exhibition) included Central Michigan University, Ferris State University and Northern Michigan University.

If you’d like to attend this year’s competition, it will be held at Cedar Springs High School’s Red Hawk Stadium, with a flag-raising at 8:45 a.m. Admission is $6; seniors & students are $4. Be sure to come out and see your Red Hawks, who placed 2nd ou of 8 bands in Class B recently at the Rockford Competition.

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