The Alexandria parade is considered the premier marching band competition in the state and was televised by an Alexandria station. Entry is by invitation only, and 25 bands competed in five classes Sunday.
One of the smallest schools in Class AA, Paynesville won its class with a score of 83.3, outscoring Waconia by 1.6 points. Paynesville had the highest scores of any band in Class A, AA, or AAA and finished with the fourth highest score overall.
However, Paynesville was shut out of the Class AA ensemble awards. Milaca was chosen for the best color guard, Waconia for the best percussion, and Long Prairie-Grey Eagle for the best wind section. Director Bryan Mara said those announcements, which are done before the overall awards, made him nervous, fearing for the band's overall score. "We're strong all the way across the board," Mara said.
"When Waconia was announced as second, I think our kids thought they didn't get anything," said Mary Stock, one of the many parents who have loyally followed the band for the past month. When Paynesville was announced as the Class AA winner, Stock said the band members jumped and screamed .
"We had our best performance of the year, which is what we were shooting for," Mara explained. "And the judges liked it, too."
The first-rate competition, the packed bleachers, and the invitation-only requirement created an electric atmosphere for performing, according to drum major Joe Halvorson. "It was pretty emotional walking down the street," he said.
"We talked a lot about putting emotion in the music," Halvorson added, "because if we can feel it, maybe the audience can, too."
"I thought we did very well," Halvorson said, of the band's first place showing in Alexandria. "I was more than pleased."
One difficulty in Alexandria was the extreme width of the streets along the parade route. "That gave us a little trouble," Mara said, "but the kids reacted and recovered well."
Drum line captain Bridget Mueller noted that the band's first performance Sunday was at the judge's stand, making adjustments to the street width difficult. She said the band members knew there was tough competition Sunday, including bands who had beaten them before. "It was fun," she said. "We were pretty surprised."
The grand champion in Alexandria was the band from Park Center. Paynesville beat Park Center at the Buffalo parade, where the Bulldogs were named the grand champions. "We're that good?" Halvorson remembered asking himself after that parade. Now he's convinced. "I believe it, definitely," he said. "I have for a while."
The Virtual Champion Award at Alexandria, based on Internet voting, was Lutheran Vanguard of Wisconsin. Paynesville was sixth in the voting.
On Saturday morning, the Paynesville band marched in the Wheels, Wings, and Water Festival Parade in St. Cloud. They finished second in Class A with a score of 79.3, as Waconia took the top honors in Class A and for the parade. Paynesville finished third overall.
On Wednesday, June 23, the Paynesville band was the top band at the Foley parade. In Class AA, Paynesville scored 83.1 to beat Sauk Rapids-Rice and Milaca, the top two bands at the Town and Country Days parade. (Paynesville, as the hometown band, was ineligible to compete in that parade.)
Paynesville's score was the highest of any band in all three classes.
The Paynesville color guard won the award for best color guard in Class AA. Sauk Rapids-Rice was chosen for the best percussion.
At the time, the win in Foley gave the Paynesville band three victories for the season. Mara had agreed to shave his head if the band got three firsts this year, but his initial cut was deemed as leaving too much hair and revealing too little skin by band members.
After their fourth victory in Alexandria this weekend, Mara agreed to a boot camp style shave. The shaving ceremony will be held at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning at the high school. All band members should be at the school at that time to pack the buses for their east coast trip, Mara said.
Overall, in six competitive parades this year, the band has taken four firsts in their class and two seconds. "It was incredible," said Halvorson, of this year's marching band season.
"It was exciting to see them progress through the summer,"Ęsaid Stock. She enjoyed seeing them come together as a unit and developing pride in themselves.
Their performance has attracted attention to the second-year band. Stock enjoyed hearing compliments from other spectators at parades, especially when those people were from towns with established marching band programs. "It was really exciting to hear all the the positive compliments from these people," Stock explained.
The band will march in four Fourth of July parades in the Boston area over the weekend. Mara has been on a similar tour with other marching bands and said the big, established parades there pay significant appearance fees, which help subsidize the cost of the trip.
The flat fees make the parades noncompetitive. Mara said the trip should be a good learning experience for the band. "We're there to see the sights and enjoy the parades," he said.
The band will return to Paynesville next Thursday, July 8.
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