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WVU Marching Band Visits Princeton High School

By Laura Buchanan
On September 17, 2018

More than 50 percent of the band is made up of W.Va. students.
Photo Courtesy of Laura Buchanan

Despite the heat, local West Virginia residents and area schools came out to Hunnicutt Field to enjoy “The Pride of West Virginia.”

West Virginia University Mountaineer Marching Band stopped in Princeton on Aug. 31 afternoon with a state police escorting their caravan of seven coach buses to the stadium. This was their first stop on their way to North Carolina for the Big 12 football game against the University of Tennessee on Sept. 1.

The 330+ member band, under the direction of Stephen Lytle, performed its pregame show, halftime show, and stand tunes to provide the community with an opportunity to experience the pride of West Virginia.

This is part of the band’s outreach program to inspire and share with those who may not be able to attend the football games and other WVU events that feature the exemplary marching band. On this road trip, the Mountaineer band did not only perform in Princeton at a high school football game in Winston Salem, totaling three shows in the span of two days.

If the members of the band were travel-worn from their drive from Morgantown, it did not show when they took the field. Their energy matched that of the spectators as they ran out to the sound of a cheering crowd.

Once on the field, the band launched into “Fight Mountaineers/Mountain Dew,” getting the audience on their feet with mountain pride.

Lytle told WVU magazine not to expect many changes to the set list, especially the pregame show, saying that it was “the iconic music and imagery that everyone knows and loves.” Indeed, the fans knew the pregame show almost by heart, right down to the band members assembling themselves in such a way as to form the outline of the state of West Virginia.

After the pregame show, the band launched into one of this year’s half-time shows featuring music from Goldfinger, Doctor No, and Mission Impossible. Not a yard of the newly turfed field was left unused as the members spread across it to make various shapes and patterns to show off their marching prowess. The exhibition closed with a singa-long of “Hey Baby” and the sultry tune of “The House of the Rising Sun.”

Several of the younger members in attendance were in awe of the Feature Twirler, Madison Eis, as she threw her baton into the air only to catch it on her elbow before proceeding to go into a twirling routine. The consensus among the youngest fans were that “it was fun” with one little girl declaring that she was “going to learn to twirl a stick.”

Many area schools’ band students were present, and they observed other things that the general audience might not pick out, such as how well the Pride members back stepped, performed parallel shoulders, and hit key notes. For many of these students, being able to don the gold cape is a future goal and not an unreachable one. More than 50 percent of the band is made up of West Virginia residents. According to the WVU Marching Band’s website, the band started in 1901 as an “allmale ROTC band” of just eight members and did not encourage women to join until 1972.

In 2016, the Mountaineers went to New York to lead the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This was an event in which many West Virginians felt a great sense of pride in having their state represented in such a positive way. This pride was reflected on Friday as the spectators sported their blue and gold attire.

The energy of the crowd was electric despite the unforgiving sun that sent temperatures into the mid-80s. However, the organizers of this event were prepared for the extreme heat, having the Princeton Senior High School cheerleaders pass out water in the stands. Many of the senior members in the audience had the foresight to bring umbrellas to provide a bit of shade while the younger observers simply ignored the unrelenting heat to enjoy the experience.

Due to a large volume of traffic, city and state police, along with school security guards, were present to ensure that everyone arrived and left safely, directing both foot and vehicle traffic to and away from the venue. Area businesses allowed for parking on their premises as the football parking area could not hold the enormous volume of commuters that had turned out. Tiger Drive was closed off to assist bus traffic and allow them to move through without being hindered by private vehicles. Overall, the logistics were well carried out.

In addition to the law enforcement, school staff assisted in keeping a watchful eye on the thousands of children in attendance. Signs were taped to the bleachers to direct students to assigned seating areas to ensure they stayed with their respective group. When it was time to leave, the announcer called out each school individually to prevent a stampede from developing.

Though it was a half hour in intense heat, no one seemed to complain as they left the stands. A happy chatter filled the air as spectators neatly filed out, discussing both the band and the upcoming college game that would kick off the football season.

Another success for the West Virginia Marching Band!

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