“I love it. It’s amazing compared to my old one,” Floyd said Wednesday afternoon during marching band practice.
The Piedmont High School senior is one of 25 band members to have received a new instrument this year, courtesy of the school district and the Piedmont Band Booster Club.
The instruments come with a price tag of approximately $80,000, a cost being split evenly over four years with money from the school districts’ general fund and from the booster club. The new instruments replace some that were nearly three decades old, said Piedmont band director Jamie Thomas.
Piedmont schools Superintendent Matt Akin said the school board chose to go ahead with the purchases because of the booster club’s willingness to help, and because of a desire to enhance every program on the campus. A $5 million football stadium renovation was completed last year at the high school. That project is being paid for with city government money and funds from the school district itself.
“I felt like it was part of a bigger picture. When we did the stadium expansion here, it was for athletics and the band,” Akin said. “… If you’re going to continue to try to be the best, you’ve got to have the equipment to do it.”
To help the booster club pay for those new instruments, Thomas is organizing the school’s first Chief Ladiga Marching Festival, which will take place at the Field of Champions at Piedmont High School on Sat., Oct. 13.
Thomas is not sure how much money the festival will bring in for the boosters, but he said similar festivals raise as much as $10,000 in a single day. That would be enough for the boosters’ $10,000 annual instrument payment, Thomas said. Much depends on how many marching bands attend, however. Currently, seven bands from Alabama and Georgia have agreed to show. Thomas hopes to have around 12 bands signed on to attend.
Visiting bands will pay an entrance fee and the boosters will run the concession stands. Attendees of the festival will pay an entrance fee as well. Booster club treasurer Candy Mobley said that money from the festival will be added to the club’s regular profits from running the concession stand at football games and selling fruit at Christmas.
“And we’re coming up with anything and everything else we can find, so I’m sure people will be hearing from us soon, if they haven’t already,” Mobley said.
Thomas hopes to make the festival an annual event, pointing to the Mid-South Marching Band Festival in Gadsden, which is in its 48th year and regularly brings in more than 20 bands annually.
“It would be nice if in 40 years they’re still running this one long after I’m gone,” Thomas said.
For the band members, Thomas said, seeing the community and the school board come together to enrich the program gave them a huge boost.
“Whereas a lot of band programs are getting shut down or losing funding,” Thomas said earlier this month, “here we are buying instruments. It’s so refreshing to be where the schools and parents make that kind of commitment to make our band better. It’s a big uplift for us.”
Star staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @burkhalter_star.