The 36th annual Copiah Marching Festival will take place in Gallman this Saturday, October 5, according to Kenneth Jolly, now in his 23rd year as band director at Copiah Academy. This year’s event will include 26 private and public schools, the largest number ever, and will include bands of all sizes – from 20 members to 180 members.
According to Jolly, the event was begun by former CA band director Susie Thomas Phillips, now band director at Magee High School. Ironically, her band will be one of those participating this Saturday. In the 1990’s, the number of bands in the MPSA (now MAIS) began declining, and by 2002, the festival consisted of just four bands and less than 100 total students.
Jolly approached Dr. Ennis Proctor of the Mississippi High School Association in 2002 about declaring the Copiah Marching Festival a sanctioned event and allowing public school bands to participate. Now it’s one of the largest and most successful band festivals in the area – and one that many schools use as preparation for the MHSA and MAIS Marching Festivals in the fall. “We anticipate 2300 kids alone Saturday,” Jolly estimates, “and between 3000-4000 people on campus during the day.”
He gives much of the credit to his wife, Janice, who serves as chairperson and has worked at the festival for nearly 30 years. “We’ve had good response from public and private schools,” he reports. “They look forward to coming here because everything runs so smoothly and is so organized. She and the Band Boosters are largely responsible.” According to Jolly, all band members are required to work at the festival, and band parents are requested to help.
The Copiah Marching Festival gets underway at 9:30 AM this Saturday and continues until 5:30 PM. Admission is $5 each for students and adults. Concessions are available at the stadium. Copiah’s band, the Marching Colonels, is scheduled to perform at 9:45 AM. They will be judged, but are not eligible for awards. The awards ceremony is scheduled for 5:45 PM.
Bands planning to participate are from the following schools: Copiah Academy, Jackson Prep, McLaurin, Scott Central, Franklin County, Richland, Bassfield, Starkville Academy, Hillcrest Christian, Forest Hill, North Pike, Lake, Lawrence County, Raymond, Mendenhall, McComb, Magee, Callaway, Louisville, Terry, Vicksburg, Brandon, Provine, Jim Hill, Neshoba Central, and Murrah.