Rain, lightning delay performances at Pursuit of Excellence festival

Above: The 2017 Pursuit of Excellence Festival culminated with an exhibition performance by the Marshall High School marching band. Top right: a trumpet player from Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, performs a solo during the team’s show called ‘The Underground.’ Below: A Lincoln High School tuba player rocks a few moves during the school’s performance on Saturday.

By Jenny Kirk


MARSHALL — The sound of music could be heard throughout most of the day and evening across the city of Marshall as marching bands from the region geared up and then performed at the 22nd annual Pursuit of Excellence Southwest Minnesota Marching Festival.

The competition was fierce between the 19 band that participated in four separate classes for the Pursuit of Excellence competition held at Mattke Field at the Schwan Regional Event Center at Southwest Minnesota State University.

“I think the bands keep getting better and better,” Marshall High School band director Wayne Ivers said. “The stadium makes them sound so good. This stadium is fabulous. The bands love coming here to play at this stadium. This is their favorite show.”

In addition, the Marshall High School marching band gave an exhibition performance in which the Tiger band was judged but not ranked among the competing band.

“I thought they played really well,” Ivers said about MHS’s performance. “Down here, it’s hard to hear them, but I thought the closer was as good as they’ve played. I was really happy with that.”

Throughout most of the day, rain threatened to put a damper on the marching band festivities.

“It was hard,” Ivers said. “You have to decide if we should go in. We kept looking at the radar and it looked like a little blip heading toward us. There was some lightning, so you have to get them off the field then, of course. But all of the bands wanted to be on the field. It looked like about 7:30-7:45 p.m. we were going to be OK and they all said, ‘Yes, let’s wait.’ “

The inclement weather ended up delaying the competition for about 90 minutes, but the elimination of awards ceremonies and the exhibition performance of the SMSU pep band helped make up time.

“It’s not fun (having to move the competition indoors),” Ivers said. “It’s OK because the R/A (Facility) is a great place, but it’s just boomy and loud. I talked to the directors and there’s some bands who haven’t performed for anybody yet because it’s rained out their football performances, too. So for some, this was their first time performing, period.”

Fortunately, only a single marching band felt the full force of Mother Nature.

“Sheldon got poured on,” Ivers said. “They were out here when the skies opened. They said ‘It was the funnest thing we’ve ever done.’ I’m sure it hurt their performance but the kids will never forget it.”

MHS’s field show was titled “Machina” and signifies a battle between man and machine.

“The second song, “Nimrod,” is my favorite,” Marshall freshman clarinet player Jaelyn Tykwinski said. “I think we did pretty good.”

Tykwinski ended up with a battle scar, so to speak, as she inadvertently was hit across the nose by one of the flags carried by a color guard member.

“I got hit in the nose with a pole,” she said. “It hurt, but then I just kind of played through it. I asked someone afterward if my nose was crooked and they said no, so I was happy.”

Another MHS clarinet player, senior Kaylee Hoflock, also liked playing “Nimrod” the best.

“I thought we did really good,” she said. “It really helps that we had the visual people and the music people for our clinics (on Saturday). I think that it helped a lot.”

While it’s a short turnaround, most bands are able to get good feedback at the clinics and make changes before the competition begins. It makes for a long but productive day.

“We had practice from 8:20-10:30 a.m. and then we had separate clinics,” Hoflock said. “For us clarinets, we started clinics at 2:40 p.m. and ended at 3:40ish. Then we started practice again at 7:45 p.m. Till we had to come over and perform.”

MHS freshmen Blake Fogelson and Derek Holmgren said they preferred the ending song, “Battling the Green Death.”

“That’s probably my favorite one,” Fogelson said. “We call it the half-time march. I think we did pretty good. We didn’t mess up as bad as we do at some practices.”

Fogelson, a tuba player, said “the bus rides and the competitions” were the best parts of marching band.

“I like just talking to friends,” he said.

Holmgren plays the “Tom” drum.

“I think we performed pretty good this time,” Holmgren said. “I’d say this is one of our best ones.”

Holmgren said he joined marching band on the advise of others.

“It just seemed really fun,” he said. “My brother did it last year and said it was fun.”

Marching band is also a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of dedication.

“We practice at 6:45 in the morning till 7:45, then go to school,” Fogelson said. “We also had a band camp for two weeks, from 8-12 and then 2-4 and 6-8.”

The Marshall Tiger Marching Band co-sponsors the Pursuit of Excellence marching band competition with the Star of Minnesota Pep Band, Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall Public Schools and the Marshall Music Boosters.

“Our kids learn a lot at the clinic and they get to play at home,” Ivers said. “That’s cool. They love playing in this stadium, too. It’s so much better than most of the stadiums we play in. This is the best one, by far.”