CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This year's Daily Mail Kanawha County Majorette & Band Festival will be the 67th in the county's history and will look a little different than in years past.
For this year's competition, organizers elected to change to an Olympic format. That means that in each of the categories the eight high school bands compete, three will be awarded medals — gold, silver and bronze.
That's a departure from the traditional format but Mark Davis, fine arts curriculum supervisor for Kanawha County schools, hopes it will be a welcome one for fans who come to the festival year after year.
"This special is all about tradition, so it might be shocking," he said. "But hopefully it won't be that big of a change — everyone kind of understands this format better."
The festival is also keeping some of the most venerable traditions — awards for Grand Champion Band and Miss Majorette still will be awarded.
The decision to switch formats is part of an effort to streamline the competition, and to "give every band a level playing field," Davis said.
"This means every band in every category is being recognized," he said.
Last year, in another effort to steer the festival in that direction, organizers also tweaked the format. Band directors voted to draw straws for playing order rather than starting with the smallest band and progressing to the largest. That practice will continue with this year's festival.
There's a lot of variation in the sizes of Kanawha County's bands, though Davis said that size is not necessarily indicative of quality.
"You know, you have more horns in a section so you might have a thicker sound, and as far as the field maneuvers and things, more people just means there's more things going on," he said. "But the smaller bands, I've been impressed with them as well."
Davis also said that the number of students joining the marching band at schools across the county seems to be growing. This year's 6th grade class drew an especially large number of students to band, and he's looking forward to seeing those students grow older and join the bands at their respective high schools.
The WVU Marching Band, the Pride of West Virginia, will travel to Charleston for an exhibit performance at the festival. Traditionally, WVU's band alternates years with the marching band at Marshall University.
The festival will begin at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 24 at Laidley Field.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.