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Old is new

As out-of-state band numbers drop, officials connected with the Festival of States look for new avenues of growth, including bringing adult-based bands to the streets of St. Petersburg.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2001

[Times photo: Bill Serne]
Cliff Footlick provides shade for his granddaughter Brittney, 21/2, while they watch the Festival of States Parade Saturday morning along Bayshore Drive in St. Petersburg.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Several out-of-state bands modeled on St. Petersburg's Second Time Arounders plan to march down Central Avenue in next year's Festival of States parade.

The 500-member group, composed of former high school and college band members ranging in age from 18 to 93, has generated a number of spin-off bands across the country. And it may be these adult bands that bring an influx of new old blood to the out-of-state marching bands that have dwindled in numbers in Festivals of States.

The leader of the Rounders, as they call themselves, hopes to bring in many bands just like themselves -- adults who are marching for a second time -- to perform next year. In honor of the band's 20th anniversary, Director Bill Findeison said, six or seven bands will be invited to perform a huge field show at Al Lang Field during festival week in 2002. The bands will march in the parade and possibly perform another field show afterward. He expects more than 1,000 out-of-state band members to participate.

"It will certainly be the cornerstone of next year's festival," Findeison said. "We'll make music from all corners of the country."

The One More Time Around Again Marching Band from Portland, Ore., the Play in Again Band from Tucson, Ariz., and the Second Time Arounders Marching Band from Fort Wayne, Ind., have expressed interest in coming, Findeison said.

Festival of States officials themselves are still resting a bit from this year's festival before thinking too hard about next year.

"I slept well last night for the first time in months," Lane Hosmer, in his first year as festival director, said Monday. "I jumped out of bed this morning and I was very happy to come to work."

Although figures for parade attendance, dollars spent and monies received were nebulous Monday, initial reaction from Suncoasters and festival administrators was positive.

[Times photo: James Borchuck]
Howard Krinsky tries to coax his 9-month-old daughter Samantha toward the finish line of the Diaper Derby at The Pier Sunday. The contest was part of the Florida Power Pierfest and sponsored by WMTX-FM 100.7. Samantha won this heat, but lost in the second round.

Jim Newman, Suncoasters president, can't remember a better festival.

"It went off without a hitch," he said. "It seemed like everything went smoothly."

Incoming Suncoaster president Mark Mahaffey said this year's crowds seemed more enthusiastic than last year's, especially at the illuminated night parade and at Saturday's day parade.

"The general mood was very upbeat and positive," he said. "Everyone I met on Saturday at every event was having a great time."

Hosmer said he is waiting for feedback from the volunteers, which will start coming in next week when the Suncoasters hold an executive committee meeting to go over what worked and what needs to be adjusted for next year's festival. Nearly 250 Suncoasters, the civic organization that sponsors the event, provided the bulk of the help.

[Times photo: Bill Serne]
A clown waves from a float to children during Saturday's Festival of State Parade in St. Petersburg.
Hosmer said the city's help was indispensable, too, adding that in his years as a festival manager -- he managed festivals in Alabama before coming here in July -- he has never seen the kind of support the city of St. Petersburg delivered to the Festival of States.

He said work has already started on next year's festival. The dates have been set (March 20-24) and several sponsors have been lined up.

The plan is to continue condensing festival activities into a shorter time span, Hosmer said, so the event will be more cohesive. It also might make it more possible to attract out-of-state bands to the festival. This year, two bands participated, but in years past, as many as 15 bands have come to St. Petersburg.

Hosmer said the decline in out-of-state bands is due to a changing educational landscape that is beyond the festival's control. Students cannot afford to be away from school for long, especially with block scheduling, where each day missed is like missing several.

Another difficulty in attracting bands is that most schools "put their field shows away" right after football season and begin concentrating on concert and symphonic performances. Hosmer wants to continue offering concert and jazz band evaluations to give schools more reasons to make the trip.

Whether or not out-of-state bands come back to the festival, Hosmer sees the event as a great opportunity for local music students to perform. Next year, he hopes to increase the festival's partnership with the Pinellas County School District by bringing artists-in-residence who will visit schools the week before the festival to present workshops.

One thing is certain: There will be an 81st Festival of States. Suncoasters will be choosing the committees they will work on in the next month or so. Initial planning will begin over the summer and will be under way in earnest by September.

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