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Band festival organizers hoping for large turnout

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Officials are crossing their fingers and hoping for clear skies - or at least dry ones - during tonight's 66th annual Daily Mail Kanawha County Majorette and Band Festival.

"This is my 15th festival. We have never canceled or postponed in my 15 years," festival coordinator Fonda Lockhart said.

There is an increased likelihood for rain showers throughout the day, said Simone Lewis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

Although she didn't want to predict anything for the event's 6:30 p.m. start time, she thought it would be wise to bring some rain gear to the University of Charleston Stadium at Laidley Field.

"There's going to be stuff in the area," Lewis said.

She didn't anticipate severe weather today. However, there is a chance for gusts and more intense precipitation Wednesday.

Wednesday is the alternate date if organizers must postpone the event, but Lockhart is optimistic that won't happen. The decision is generally made by noon the day of the event, and Lockhart said afternoon showers don't keep the stadium or field wet for long.  

Laidley Field facility manager Doug Carte said Monday people were picking up advance tickets all day. Tickets are still available for $8 at the gate tonight, and Carte anticipated a big turnout.

Apart from the chance for rain, Lockhart said she's very excited for this year's event. All eight local high schools are participating in the annual competition, and the Marshall University Marching Thunder band will give an exhibition performance.

Heather Ryan, a junior at Herbert Hoover High School, earned Miss Kanawha Majorette honors at last year's festival. The Capital High School band took the festival grand champion award for the eighth time in as many years.

Fans might notice a change in scoring for this year's event, Lockhart said. The event committee, which includes the eight band directors, decided to do away with the designation of "band champion."  

There will only be a festival grand champion category this year, Lockhart said. The bands will be judged in six different categories, but scoring for the twirlers, corps and Ms. Majorette competition will not affect the overall score, she explained.

This year's competition will be bittersweet for Lockhart: she's retiring at the end of the month. Although she considered retiring in August, she decided to stay on through the festival to train her replacement. That person is Mark Davis, who officially began work Monday as the county's fine arts curriculum specialist.

"He's going to do a great job. He's kind of got a lot to digest this week," Lockhart said.

Davis was all smiles Monday and didn't seem nervous to start work during such a busy week, Lockhart said. She'll try to teach him as much as she can so he can take the reins next year, but tonight she really wants him to sit back and enjoy the show.

"I just think all the way around it's a very positive event, and I'm always glad to see the people who come out to support the bands," Lockhart said.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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