BROOKINGS – The Bobcat Marching Band has a rich history in a four-state region full of the area’s best bands.
Since 1988, Festival of Bands USA has brought these bands together, including the Brookings Bobcats every year since its inception, to Howard Wood Stadium, where marching bands have fought for the finalist sweepstakes title, the top score of all bands no matter class or size.
This year’s Bobcat Band took the top Sweepstakes Award Oct. 3, for the first time in 32 years.
According to Festival of Bands program records, the Bobcats earned finalist status off and on throughout the ’80s and ’90s, including the People’s Choice Award in 1995 and the Spirit of the Festival Award in 2014.
The record book will show the Bobcat Band’s grand finish in 2020 as part as a climb since 2011, when after a 12-year absence, they made finals in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 2018 and 2019.
Bobcats took first place in Class AA, best drumline, best hornline, best color guard and best drum majors.
Since 2018, the best drum major award has been dominated by the Brookings program due to the work of former drum major and alumni Tyler Hartmann, along with Hunter Winghart, who developed a program that instilled passion and ownership in these young leaders.
“Anyone watching our rehearsals notices our drum majors and their leadership,” Band Director Ron Stary said. “Senior Cherish Stern, along with juniors Ainsley Shelsta and Kyra Stoel, is one of the biggest reasons why this group reached its level of achievement.”
“There’s so much tradition and pride in this accomplishment. All alumni have all been a part of the climb, making Brookings a great ‘band’ town,” Stary added.
“The heart and soul of the program through all those years was our assistant director and color guard adviser Penny Robinson. Anyone involved, from student to parents, knows this to be true and loved her.”
Being named the top band in the region at Festival of Bands was especially gratifying because so much was taken away from students this spring due to the shutdown.
“The 2019 season was one of our strongest musical groups ever with a show we called ‘El Barrio,’” Stary said. “So just imagining we could climb back from that makes it that much better.”
“Assistant director Robert Escamilla has been critical in our success by bringing the energy we all needed to put together a great production for these students. He touched every part of the program this year, especially the color guard. We could not have done this without him and our marching band staff.”
Stary says all the challenges add to the life lessons students learn in the course of the marching band season.
“All this success after so many challenges would make this season special to any coach or director,” he said. “Back in June, there were those who doubted we could rise above COVID, and across the nation band programs seeing fewer participants due to the virtual challenges for a ‘hands-on activity.’ Add to that the transition of replacing an incredibly strong graduating class. The student leadership team showed amazing perseverance. All credit goes to them, and as one of the judges on Saturday told them, ‘All that preparation and training showed up when it counted in October!’”