For some people, the sight of leaves starting to change and the smell of crisp, dry air calls back memories of childhood bonfires, chilly football games and settling into a new school year.

Me? It sends me straight back to high school marching band.

Man, there’s nothing like it.

As I’ve written in columns before, I grew up on the north side of Indianapolis and went to Westfield High School. What I failed to mention is I am and always have been a huge band nerd, having been in the Shamrock Pride marching band there, two years as a clarinet player and two as a drum major.

We were a competition band, much like some marching bands in Noble County. In addition to playing at football games on Friday nights, we would spend all day Saturday either competing or practicing.

The weekends basically looked like this: get out of school Friday, come back after a couple of hours, go home around 11 p.m. from the football game. Then, come back Saturday, usually around 8 or 9 a.m, go compete, and then get home many times as late as midnight.

Those Saturdays weren’t easy, either. The reason why we would get to school so early in the morning was to squeeze in a few hours of practice before we competed.

And of course, with this being Indiana, weather during band season was never comfortable. We were either boiling in the sun, or we were freezing, counting the layers of clothing on each other and making a competition of who could fit the most warmth under our uniforms.

Sundays were boring, since we would have to save all of our homework for then.

As hard as it was, it was rewarding to march in the band, and even more to be a role model and help set the tone of the season as drum major.

It was harder than I imagined it would be transitioning from high school to college, since I was still in Ball State’s marching band, but they only performed at football games and didn’t compete against other bands.

I think it was a combination of losing the comraderie that comes with working toward a common goal and personally losing a field which I can exercise my competitive nature in that made it so tough.

I really am too competitive for my own good. I even race myself to see how fast I can finish New York Times crossword puzzles and I constantly try to improve on my time. But I digress.

Seeing the first few leaves change reminds me of driving south on U.S. 31 to a competition on a school bus, looking out the windows and noticing how the evergreens stay cool in a sea of fiery foliage right before the leaves drop.

Feeling the chilly air reminds me of using the wind to help me dry my wet shower hair before I slicked it back into a bun that would fit under a hat for a competition.

Now, when my boyfriend Bobby and I go to high school football games, I make sure to cheer extra loud for the band. Not only do the kids work hard and deserve recognition, but watching their show also lets me live vicariously through them.

And if you know a marching band kid who’s in the middle of marching season, maybe encourage them to stock up on handwarmers and thin gloves, just to be prepared.

Sara Barker is a reporter for The Advance Leader and The News Sun. Invite her to your marching band competitions at

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