SOUTH PLAINFIELD -- The South Plainfield Marching Band performed their 2017 show for the last time at the Thanksgiving Day Football game in North Plainfield on Nov. 23rd. The day marked the seniors’ final high school marching band performance and was the finale to a season of accomplishment, victory, friendship and memories that will last a lifetime.
“I feel really good about this year’s marching band season,” said South Plainfield High School Band Director William Haughwout. “I feel that the kids have really stepped up and have done a great job. They kept the momentum going until now.”
In the chill of the morning on Thanksgiving Day, the marching band boarded buses and headed to North Plainfield, where they would take to the field for the last time as Angels and Demons, their theme of this year’s performance.
Senior Josh Persad took front and center on the field for the start of the show with a drum solo, just as he had done for every football game and competition. With the roll of his drum, the marching band sprung into motion to the songs they have played hundreds of times over the last few months.
“Playing a solo is always fun,” said Persad. “And being here for my last game, brings back a lot of memories of all four years.”
Moving through their formations in constant motion while maintaining precision and playing their selections with professional grace took months to master. The color guard’s swift choreographed steps with multiple prop changes, reflected the intensity of the practice it took to bring them through the season with success.
“I’ve been coming here 20 years to this game and it’s a special occasion, especially because I get to see my daughter Christina’s last performance,” said Chris Tamburri, parent of color guard member Christina Tamburri. “She had a wonderful day out there today and I think it’s great.”
As the show came to a close and Senior Trumpeter Kelly Kyle’s final note echoed through the stadium, the crowd applauded wildly.
“The Thanksgiving game was a great way to end my senior year,” said Senior Courtney Lee. “It’s nice to share one last football game with my friends.”
Several band parents blinked back tears as the students marched off the field to the cadence of the band’s drum core.
“This is end of four great years,” said Scott Waters, Band Parent and member of the band’s Pit Crew. “I had tears in my eyes. I know my daughter had a great experience, but I did too. I really enjoy this.”
“Today is my last year being a senior parent, our last Thanksgiving game,” said Co-President of the Music Boosters Sam Persad. “Anytime that we come back now, we’ll be alumni. It’s just something that you do every Thanksgiving. You just come to the game and you go home and eat.”
“It’s the end of an era,” added Tamburri. “It’s kind of emotional for me because my daughter’s graduating. I’m looking forward to her starting a new chapter in her life though.”
The Thanksgiving Day game is also a day for homecomings as many marching band alumni came back to play in the stands with their peers. First year Music Major at William Patterson College, Elizabeth Lee, joined her friends in the stands to play the familiar football favorites on her piccolo.
“It’s really nice being back here playing with the band,” said Elizabeth Lee. “I really miss them all because I haven’t seen them all year. A lot has changed with the new band director.”
South Plainfield alumni James Joyner, who attends Rutger’s University Newark as a freshman, is studying to become an English Teacher. Joyner took up his drum sticks once again to play with the band in the stands and cheer on the football team.
“It’s nice to see all of my little ones grow up now and they’re learning it on their own, so basically I’m a proud person now,” said Joyner. “It was fun. I’m really proud of them; they’re doing really well this year.”
“It’s so much fun to see old alumni come back to play with us one last time,” added Courtney Lee. “And it’s really nice to have the alumni back in the stands. It’s like old times.”
“This is probably one of the best games I’ve ever been at since everyone joins in and plays,” added Josh Persad. “So it’s a fun time.”
South Plainfield’s city officials came out to support the high school’s students of the band, color guard, football team and cheerleaders. Council President Derryck White, along with Council member Joseph Wolak, Board of Education member Tom Cassio, and Borough Administrator and CFO Glenn Cullen, spent their holiday morning cheering for South Plainfield along with Mayor Matthew Anesh, who engaged in some friendly banter with the town’s rival, North Plainfield Mayor Michael Giordano Jr. The game has been a part of the holiday for decades.
“The Thanksgiving Day game between North and South Plainfield is a time honored tradition that began back in 1956,” said local historian and band parent Richard Veit, author of the book South Plainfield. “Today is a celebration of community and family and it’s a great time to reunite with old friends and see a famous football rivalry.”
“It’s a strong tradition,” said Robin Persad, Co-President of the High School Music Boosters. “It makes me think of loyalty, tradition, strong roots. I have family coming and I have a turkey in the oven, but I’m here and so many people will carry on their Thanksgiving traditions when they leave here, but this is what they do first.”
The marching band had the most successful season in recent history. Despite challenges at the start of the season and transitioning to a new band director this year, the marching band succeeded in taking first place in Category 2-A of Region 10’s Tournament of Bands West Essex Regional Championship Competition in October. They also were placed fourth overall in the greater regional area among the thirty-four marching bands they had been competing against throughout the season.
“I had a lot to work with when I came in and they were great,” added Haughwout. “It’s really their work ethic that’s made the difference. I’m just standing in front of them and happen to be there at the right time, I guess, but they’re a great group.”
The dedication and hard work of marching band is a true commitment, however, the friendships that emerge from amidst the experience are priceless, according to many adults who had been in marching band during high school.
“There’s a bond that you make in marching band that I don’t think you can find anywhere else and you carry that with you throughout the years,” added Mr. Haughwout. “I’m still good friends with people that I met in marching band.”
“I’m so proud of how far we came this year because at the beginning everything was really bad and now we got ourselves together,” said Freshman Olivia Ardito. “I’ve made a lot of great friends this year and it’s been an incredible experience.”
Being band parents has rewards too and the Music Boosters ask that any parents looking to have the experience of a lifetime while spending time with their teens, become a part of the South Plainfield Music Boosters.
“I absolutely encourage parents to get involved because the band becomes a family in and of themselves,” added Sam Persad. “But also the band parents become family also and you discover some friends that you never had before. It really does become an enlarged family.”
“I made a lot of nice friends and the people are amazing,” added Waters reflecting on his career as a band parent. “You really understand how much the fathers and mothers care for their kids and their other kids that aren’t even theirs.”
The coming year promises more excitement, competitions, dedication and even a trip to Florida. In the fall of 2018, the marching band will perform at Epcot in Disney World.
“Next year we have a lot of things going on,” added Haughwout. “We’re going to be competing again and we also have the Disney Trip coming up Nov. 28th through Dec. 3rd 2018, where we march into Epcot and perform. So it’s a great year to join.”
The Music Boosters urge parents and eighth grade students or current South Plainfield High School students interested in joining the band or color guard for the 2018 Marching Band Season, go to S.P.H.S. Music Boosters (https://www.facebook.com/groups/423504531028808/) on Facebook and send a friend request to become part of the private group.