GRAND ISLAND — Local high school marching bands had a strong showing at this year’s Harvest of Harmony parade.

High school bands from all over the state competed in the Harvest of Harmony marching band competition -- and the competition was fierce. The Harvest of Harmony is considered the largest parade in the state, even making the 1996 Guinness Book of World Records for have the most marching bands in a parade. This year’s parade featured more than 200 entries, included 97 marching bands.

Heartland Community Schools, McCool Junction Public School and York Public Schools each excelled at this year’s parade. Scores are calculated by considering music, marching and general effect.

The Heartland Community Schools street marching band repeated last year’s results, being named best marching band in Class D, and – for the third year in a row – best overall Harvest of Harmony marching band.

“The kids did so well – I’m very, very proud of them,” said Heartland band teacher Royce Schweitzer. He said each year Heartland marching band adopts a theme to inspire student-competitors. “You never reach perfection,” Schweitzer explained. “But as long as you don’t say ‘This is good enough,’ you can get closer to it.”

McCool Junction Public School followed right behind Heartland in Class D, placing second. McCool band director Heather Stahr said when the results were announced, her students were excited. “I think they were kind of in shock,” she said. “They really work hard, and really went with it,” Stahr added. “They reaped the rewards.”

Overall McCool Junction Public School’s marching band achieved a ninth-place slot overall. “For us to get ninth overall is pretty neat,” Stahr said.

York Public Schools band instructor Curtis Forsch and company brought home a Superior (I) Rating, earning Class A third place. Adding to the honors, the YPS band received third place in Class A field marching.

The band received high points for their musical performance, but Forsch said he’d like to improve in other areas – especially with additional competitions on the horizon. “They are working hard to improve their marching points before attending the Minden Marching Festival on Saturday, Oct. 19,” Forsch said.

“It is definitely extra work for our band members to compete in both field and street marching categories, but I believe it is very important to be exposed to both areas for those students who plan to continue with marching band in college,” he added.

One of the area’s competitors hailed from outside state borders, said Grand Island Chamber of Commerce Communications and Event Coordinator Josie Meister. “It was not limited to just Nebraska bands,” Meister said. “A band from Cheyenne, Wyoming joined us for the parade and field competition this year.”

The significance of the area schools’ performances was not lost on Stahr. “It’s great that small schools do as well as bigger schools.” She said her students look up to area bands – regardless of size. “They like to watch them and see what they do,” then put those ideas and skills into practice, Stahr said.

Schweitzer said there is no shortage of bands in the area to look up to. “There are good musicians in the area, and the schools have good music programs,” he said. “That is evident when you go to state competitions.”

While bands were in divisions based on size, the big picture – overall scores –revealed smaller schools can compete with their larger counterparts.

“There certainly is no advantage to being a bigger band in the [Harvest of Harmony] parade,” Meister said.

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