The trip started with an overnight bus ride from Westwood to Atlanta. 6 Buses, one without working power receptacles and extremely cold, all without enough room for comfortable sleeping. The floors were completely used, students laid out stem to stern, like a big puzzle with everyone trying to fit into a sleeping position. Some succeeded, some didn’t. One chaperone reported “Well, I had about 30 minutes of sleep.”
Arrival in Atlanta was very late re the itinerary. The Band went right to Hard Rock Café and skipped the planned trip to the Centennial Park and the Aquarium. Then to the Hotel to check in.
The Hilton is a convention Hotel, huge with 28 floors. There are 8 elevators, 4 normal, 2 on the outside, and 2 on the inside giving view of the open floor plan inside. Getting up was difficult with the numbers of students. At one point the computers controlling the elevators seemed to hang. It seemed that way, we would push buttons and they wouldn’t light. Elevators were a bit dodgy through the rest of the trip. Sometimes the elevator would just stop unexpectedly, and just hang out for a while before continuing. A bit concerning!
At this point all the students, chaperones and directors are tired, a bit grumpy, and just want some rest. But at 6pm the Buses roll out with Jason’s Deli box dinners in the student’s hands for a rehearsal at Kennesaw state, about a 45 minute drive away. Supposedly they’re to get back to the hotel before 11, 11:15 curfew, 11:30 lights out. Didn’t happen that way…they got back to the Hotel around 12:30.
Morning of the competition dawns. Breakfast, tired faces, load bus at 8am, to the Georgia Dome for a 10:30am Preliminary run. Hanger-on Parents straggle behind.
The Georgia Dome is a lovely facility, huge. Holds about 71,000. The ceiling is interesting, it’s a cable supported, Teflon coated fiberglass fabric that is about 374k square feet. One key thing about the Georgia Dome is that it is the home of the Atlanta Falcons. The hash marks that are most prevalent are the NFL hash marks, which are different from the NCAA ones. The field has the NCAA marks, but they are very faded.
The reason this is important is that Westwood and all the other Marching Bands use the NCAA hash marks and other markings on the field to figure out where to be and move during the show. We didn’t know that the NCAA marks were going to be faded, and that caused a great deal of confusion as we took the field for our run at 10:30. We parents in the stand noticed that the clarinets didn’t know where to go when they tried to setup up their initial position in the middle of the field.
10:30 came, and the confusion translated to some issues during the run. One of the gliders got run over by the Band, one block was forward of the normal position. From the stands it wasn’t really apparent, but the band felt like they didn’t have a good run. One student texted her parents: “You can call us Bombadiers because we BOMBED.” What the Band didn’t know is that the music was lovely, all the microphones worked, there was good concentration on following the Drum Majors, and it was a lovely show. To add to the drama, as the Gliders and the kites moved out during the ending, the lead kite decided to separate from the pole and floated gently, forlornly, to the ground.
After the performance, the Band moved out to get their official pictures taken. We’re a big Band, so it took a while. The feeling with the students was that there was no way they were making finals! We parents begged to differ, and indeed Mr. Turpin had a talk with the band after the pictures and told them to expect to come back that night for finals. The issues that seemed HUGE to the students really weren’t that noticeable to the audience, and they had had a solid run.
After pictures, the Band loaded in buses and went over to the Georgia Aquarium for lunch and fun seeing the exhibits. The Aquarium is an awesome one. They have four Whale Sharks that are just HUGE, and Manta Rays that aren’t much behind. There’s a tunnel made of glass that runs directly under the tank that holds these and sharks and other fishes. It’s a really wonderful experience! Lunch was in the cafeteria of the Aquarium. Being Halloween, the Aquarium was also having lots of extra things going on with trick or treat stations through the entire building. There were some fun costumes on the children roaming about, and the crowd was huge. I think the favorite costume I saw was a 4 foot Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. “I AM GROOT!”
Some parents, the directors and the Drum Majors went back to the Georgia Dome around 4 to hear the announcement of the finals. The contest had 41 Bands, and 12 were going to be selected for finals. The rest of the Band went back to the Hotel for some much needed rest.
Some of the best bands were performing towards the end of the day. Tarpon Springs, the eventual winner, performed last. They had an extremely violent show, filled with lots of electronics. They really are an incredible Band, current BOA Grand National Champion from 2014. One of the cool things is that we saw the Golden Eagle, which is the Grand National Trophy that travels with the current champion. Two years ago it lived in Texas at Woodlands for a year. As we waited for results, the Marine Corp Drum and Bugle Corp performed, and they were incredible!
Announcements started. We parents waited. They announce the finalists in random order, and of course they waited for the 8th or 9th slot to announce Westwood. It was nice moment…we’ve never been to a BOA finals before as far as I know. History made for the 2nd year in a row! There were 5 Texas bands attending Atlanta, and all 5 made finals: L.D. Bell, Winston Churchill, Clements, Cypress Falls, and Westwood!
Reports from the Hotel was that when the students heard they made finals, they scared all the rest of the habitants with the yelling and screaming! Some of the students were scared too, since it took a while for the news to spread.
Our draw for the evening was at 9:15. They have a random drawing at the beginning of the competition, and they follow that order. We talked with Mrs. Dacy, evidently the Seniors were REALLY happy they had another chance to do a good run!
Time for the run came, and the Band seemed much more comfortable on the field. They then proceeded to unleash the best run of the show that I’ve seen, precise, filled with emotion, fast, just wonderful. It was GREAT! As they marched off the field into the tunnel, you could hear them cheering! Reports were that some seniors were crying amid the cheers. They had done it! What a wonderful way to end the Marching Season, with the best run of the year, and of course the last run for the Senior class.
BOA Super-Regionals have an interesting way of ending the evening. They bring all the bands onto the field, not just the Drum Majors. It makes for a lovely picture with the different colors across the entire field. We were announced as the 9th place Band, and very good result for our first time. Some of the Bands we bested were really outstanding, I was proud that we were counted among that list. When the full results were announced, turns out we were 6th place in Music, 9th in Visual, and 9th in General effect. Tarpon Springs got 1st, and L.D. Bell was second. We were .1 points away from the 8th place Band, Walton. Of the Texas Bands, in Music, we came in third behind Churchill and L.D. Bell.
Out of all the 12 Bands on the field, Westwood was the only one that had never done a BOA Finals. At the end of the announcements, the Bands are told to break ranks, and they are supposed to meet and greet with each other. The Westwood Band didn’t know what to do, so they stayed in the block for a while and then figured it out.
After, back to the Hotel, sleep, get up and breakfast, and back on the Buses for the long trip back to Austin at around 9am. With the weather, and other factors like Chili’s taking a LONG time to deliver food, the Band arrives in Austin at 4:40am Monday morning, to greet bleary-eyed Parents who have been up all night worrying. Thanks to everyone who persuaded the school to give them Monday off!!!
For the 2nd year in a row, the Westwood Band has made history. Last year, we went to State for the first time in our history. This year, we make a BOA finals for the first time in our history, and that finals in a Super Regional. Most importantly, the Band saw a challenge, and rose to the occasion. The fact that they uncorked the best run of the year for the last run of the year is a testament to hard work, focus, and teamwork. What a wonderful year!
As a Senior parent, I’m really not happy that my daughter is done with marching with the Warrior Band. It’s been a wonderful journey. Between our oldest and our youngest we’ve seen an incredible growth from Harvest, to Finding Balance, to Watchtower, to FORE! and now to Let Me Fall. I’m so proud of these kids, and the Directors, and the Parents. GO WOOD!