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High school bands from all over Nebraska will be seen marching through the streets of downtown Columbus for the 44th annual Columbus Marching Festival on Saturday, Sept. 29.

The bands will march down 13th Street. The parade starts at 10 a.m., then the bands will perform at 1 p.m. at Pawnee Park Memorial Stadium. The parade is free, but it is $7 for adults and $5 for students to attend the field competition.

The festival will be the first competition The Discoverers' Marching Band from Columbus High School will be participating in this school season. Jeff Peabody, CHS Band director, said the students are excited about this year’s competition.

“Well, CMF is always special to these kids because it’s a home show. And not every band gets a home contest,” he said. “But we’ve been fortunate to have one of the longest running contests in Nebraska at 44 years, and it's something we look forward to every year. It’s something the kids have strong feelings towards.”

The 135 member band musters one of the largest sousaphone sections within Nebraska, with a total of eight marching tubas. The band’s song theme this year is titled "Land of the Free." Last year the band's theme was "Take to the Skies" and was based on the poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Peabody said the three arrangements the band will perform will be patriotic in nature and feature seamless transitions between each piece. The third movement is upbeat and jazzy in nature and will have the band’s color guards showcasing some swing dancing moves. The second movement is very slow and is intended as a tribute to America's heroes.

“It's a way of honoring those people who try to take care of us,” Peabody said, “honoring those who are willing to sacrifice for the country.”

Peabody said the band aims at using the competition to prepare for the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association’s annual marching band competition on Oct. 20.

“We’re enjoying a streak of four consecutive superior ratings,” Peabody said about the band’s score at the state competition, “and so we’re trying to do everything we can to keep that streak alive.”

High school bands participating in the festival this year include Shelby-Rising City, David City, Wood River, Deshler HS, Aurora, Schuyler Central, Grand Island Northwest, Norfolk, Kearny and Yutan Public schools.

The Pride of the Dakotas Marching Band from South Dakota State University will be making an appearance at this year’s festival. It will be performing at 5 p.m. at Pawnee Park Memorial Stadium.

The Columbus-based Lakeview High School Marching Band will also be competing in this year's festival.

The school’s director of bands, Wade Howles, said the 36-member band’s song theme this year is "Around the World." The band will be playing arrangements based off of folk songs from places like Japan, Ireland and the Czech Republic. One of the songs will even be a polka.

Last year, the band’s theme focused on sea shanties.

“And they were all really cool,” Howles said. “But it was all, you know, sea shanties. It was all one theme and this year it’s very diverse. The diversity is what drew me into this idea.”

Howles said last year was the first time in a decade the band marched competitively. He said he hopes to continue to grow the program and improve their performance quality.

“The goal this year is to set the bar a little bit higher, improve from Columbus last year,” he said.

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at

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Eric Schucht earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 2018. He has written for The Cottage Grove Sentinel, The Creswell Chronicle, The Pacific Northwest Inlander and The Roseburg News-Review.

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