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Newberry High School performs during the final competition, placing ninth out of 19 high schools. (Today photo/RAINA BARNETT)  

ALACHUA – The spirited sound of 19 different high schools exploded through the halls and on the football field of Santa Fe High School at the 21st Annual Southern Showcase Marching Band Competition on Saturday, Oct. 22.

Bright reds, deep blues, fantastic purples and colors of all kinds swirled around on the field as marching band students and color guard dancers weaved and moved around each other during competition.

Giant images, banners and other props occupied the field as the day progressed, with each high school bringing something unique to the table.

As the brassy instruments, crisp uniforms and bright young faces gleamed in the sunlight, the beat of the drum line and the notes of a cohesive and organized band carried each contestant closer to the title of Champion of the South.

Julie Harris, a regular volunteer at Santa Fe High School and mother of high school senior Ethan Harris, said the event takes hundreds of volunteers.

“I’m a band mom” she said. “This event probably brings about 10,000 people from all over right here to Santa Fe High School.”

The title of Ultimate Champion of the Southern Showcase was granted to Gainesville High School. Along with Champion, they scored a total of six other awards, including Best in Music, Best in General Effect, Best in Visual Performance, Best in Color Guard, Best in Brass and Best in Drum Major.

“The guard has done a lot of practice over the summer leading up to this,” said Katelyn Moore, a freshman color guard dancer from Gainesville High School. “We had Band Camp I, and that was like a full week, 12 hours a day. It feels pretty good [to win].”

The Gainesville High School band is comprised of over 60 freshmen out of 120 students. That meant the new talent had to pick up what was taught quickly and efficiently.

Tori Earley, a trombone player and freshman at Gainesville High School, said she feels like part of the family now that the Champion title was earned.

“We had a lot to live up to this year because we won state and showcase last year,” she said. “It was really cool winning tonight because we feel like we’re definitely part of the family.”

Best in Percussion went to Wiregrass Ranch High School from Wesley Chapel, Florida and Best in Woodwind went to East Side High School from Gainesville.

Kimberly Bowman, a freshman who plays the flute and chimes at Santa Fe High School, spent the day volunteering up until her school performed an exposition at the end of the night.

“It was intense,” she said. “Our slogan to cheer each other on is ‘Be Somebody,’ and it’s a pretty big deal.”

Among the top 10 finishers were Lecanto, Newberry, Port Charlotte, East Side, Lincoln, East Ridge, Wiregrass Ranch and Durant. Second place went to Lowdnes High School all the way from Valdosta, Georgia. Lowdnes High School had the biggest band from a school of nearly 3,000 students.

The energy of thousands of high school students eager to perform well vibrated through the air well into the night. Their efforts were impressive to witness.

“This is their chance to shine,” Harris said.

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