Gulf Coast Marching Festival celebrates 50 years

Gulf Coast Marching Festival celebrates 50 years

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It’s a golden celebration: 50 years of musical magic with the Gulf Coast Marching Band Festival.

On Saturday, 34 bands from across the southern half of the state competed for state ratings at Milner Stadium in Gulfport. But the experience for these student musicians is more than a number.

This is when the halftime entertainment is the main attraction. There’s no football team, and the cheerleaders are in the stands.

“It’s all about the bands, all about the music, all about drill, all about the performances,” said Gulfport High School drum major Brian Alston. “So, we come out here and listen to a whole lot of bands ranging from smaller high schools to larger high schools.”

This is the event when schools in this region earn their stripes in state competition. Gulfport High School band, which has served as host of this competition, has at least 30 years of straight superior ratings. How much pressure is that?

“A lot,” said Gulfport High Director of Bands Westley Morehead.

Morehead has been Gulfport High’s director of bands for only two years, but he’s had a long relationship with this event.

“I’m actually honored and humbled just to be able to take this on, but 50 years, it’s amazing. It’s one of those things that we’re very proud of.

“As far as marching festivals go, there’s only two or three in the country that have a longer track record and it’s only by a couple of years.”

The first half of the day, bands performed against a standard for state evaluation.

In the evening, the Battle on the Beach pitted bands in one-on-one competitions.

It takes a lot of support to make the magic happen from Gulfport high band members working concessions before their performance to volunteers offering well-earned congratulations.

“We know that there is a lot of pressure, especially on the freshmen,” said Gautier High drum major Jourdan Friley. “They have a heavy weight on them. But they pushed through and they persevered. And we really appreciate that and our parents and the band dads and band directors for working hard and making sure that this is a well-oiled machine.”

But in the end, the music is the reward.

“It’s that point where you’re like I worked so hard during the summer,” said Gautier High head drum major Ronnae Moore. “These nine hours at a time every day, after school rehearsals; staying up to like 1 a.m. practicing my instrument, or drum majoring in our case. We work so hard for this moment.”

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