DeKALB – To the members of the DeKalb High School marching band, performing at a band competition in New Orleans on Monday felt like a spring day.
“The weather was great. It was about 60 or 70 when we were down there,” said junior Michael Verbic, 16.
Band director Steve Lundin thinks the weather might have been partly responsible for the band’s remarkable success at a competition Monday.
“Part of it was the weather because we had been spending the last six weeks practicing in the terrible cold, so for us it was perfect marching band weather,” Lundin said.
The DHS marching band competed against 11 other marching bands at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and won best marching, best overall effect, best color guard, best in their class and best overall band performance two days before a multiband performance at halftime of the Sugar Bowl.
The overall band performance award, known informally as the “grand champion” award, earned the band another honor it did not expect when its bus departed DeKalb.
“It was a big surprise that we did the flag during the pregame [show],” said sophomore Sean Holly, 15.
The band members were given their awards during a New Year’s Eve ceremony for all of the competing band members, but the Marching Barbs did not find out until the next day that they would be holding a 40-yard-long American flag during the performance of the national anthem for Wednesday night’s game between Louisville and Florida.
“We prepared for that after we won the grand champion,” said senior Claire Spahn, one of the band’s three drum majors. “That morning we were given 15 or 20 minutes to run through it, and to get to our spots and open it up. We did that for three times and that was it. We made mistakes during those three times but when we actually did it, I could see how proud everyone was to be there, and I didn’t see any mistakes.”
The pregame performance was televised, while the halftime performance was not.
“We walked out and the seats were packed to the brink, and we were there to do the national anthem,” Holly said. “When it got to the part where we shook the flag, the crowd went wild.”
Three hours after the end of the game, the band members were back on their buses for the long ride back to DeKalb. Through text messages, phone calls and social media, parents of the band members back in DeKalb stayed in touch with their children and prepared a homecoming for the band.
“What a sight for them to see coming around the corner: All us moms and dads holding signs, balloons, cheering for them as they return home!” wrote Dawn Campbell on the band’s Facebook page, which was used to coordinate the homecoming.
At a few minutes after 9 p.m. Thursday, the buses returned to the high school to find the school’s driveway lined with cars, luminarias and strings of Christmas lights. As the band members got off the bus, they were greeted by dozens of parents and community members with balloons, signs and Barbs flags. Their supporters braved the 15-degree temperatures to welcome the band home.
“It was very exciting to watch the kids and to have the honor of seeing the kids win the championship,” said Sherine Elsawa, mother of freshman band member Kareem Elkwae, 15, and a chaperone on the trip. “I think this is something that the kids will talk about the rest of their lives.”