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WVU band returns to Majorette Festival

Traveling in a pack of 370 has become routine for members of the West Virginia University marching band, and they'll do it again for this year's Daily Mail Kanawha County Majorette and Band Festival.

In keeping with tradition, the festival will be held on Sept. 27, the last Tuesday of the month.

Before the exhibition performance by the Pride of West Virginia, the county's eight high school bands will compete in a variety of categories at University of Charleston Stadium at Laidley Field.

The WVU and Marshall University bands have performed at the festival in alternating years since 2003.

When an odd-numbered year rolls around, WVU Band Director Jay Drury knows he has a trip to Charleston to coordinate.

"It's quite the endeavor moving us around, but it's worth it," Drury said.

Transporting the 370-member band isn't cheap. Drury estimates the trip will cost about $12,000. Much of that is for the nine buses it takes to get the band here. A saving grace is that Charleston is close enough to make it a day trip.

When the Pride stays overnight somewhere, at least 120 hotel rooms are reserved.

"It's quite an experience. They're really good students, though, and we have a great time when we travel because they're pretty responsible about things and we have a very good staff," Drury said.

Such trips are possible because of the generosity of private and public donors to the Pride Travel Fund.

The Central West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau will help pay for expenses, Drury said.

Drury sees the trip to Charleston as an opportunity to perform in front of hundreds of potential Pride members.

Kanawha County students are a "pretty significant piece" of his band.

"That's a great place for us to be," he said. "Obviously, being in the capital city puts us in the heart of the state where a lot of our students hail from."

During the Pride's performance at the festival, the band will pause briefly to recognize its Kanawha County members.

"We hope kids will see us down here and think,  'Wow, that looks like a lot of fun with a really great organization to be a part of,' " Drury said. "We'd love to have them."

Drury also sees the festival as a way to breathe life back into marching bands.

The eight high school bands face off in a variety of categories but ultimately are vying for the title of Festival Grand Champion.

After the high schools have performed and before the awards are announced, the Pride will take the field and perform a compilation of their traditional songs like Country Roads and the WVU fight song.

A dash of Latin flavor also will be thrown in, Drury said, as the band has multiple Latin numbers in the mix for this year's football halftime shows.

"We'll do as much of that as we can, but we don't want to keep people there until midnight," he said.

The Daily Mail Kanawha County Majorette and Band Festival starts at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27.

Advance tickets are available at the eight high schools, Kerrs Music World in Charleston and Gorby's Music in South Charleston. They are $7 in advance or $8 at the field.

Contact writer Amber Marra at amber.marra@dailymail.com or 304-348-4843.