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Nebraska's state marching band contest canceled amid concerns over COVID-19

Nebraska's state marching band contest canceled amid concerns over COVID-19

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The Nebraska State Bandmasters Association on Wednesday announced that it was canceling its annual fall marching band contest over pandemic concerns.

The State Marching Contest and Festival are normally the exciting finish to the high school marching season. Bands from all across the state converge on sites in Kearney, Lincoln and Omaha to perform the shows they worked to perfect all season.

Michael Schlake, the association’s marching chair, said the association’s executive board felt it couldn’t ensure the safety of everyone involved, from students and directors to judges, vendors and spectators.

“There’s just no way to host an event this large and do so safely for our students,” he said.

Schlake said the association would also be canceling, in conjunction with sponsoring schools, five other NSBA-sanctioned shows in the Lincoln and Omaha area.

Those are the Wildcat Invitational, Titan Invitational, Capital City Championships, Chieftain Invitational and Omaha Marching Invitational.

While student safety concerns were paramount, the association was also concerned that it could take a financial hit if it held the contests and few bands showed up, he said.

And if the association suffered financially, it might hurt its ability to hold shows in future years, Schlake said.

Marching band contests can attract 15 or 20 schools, with bus loads of students, plus directors, judges and parents, he said.

“It’s just an astronomical amount of people, and the potential for an outbreak was just too high,” Schlake said. “It’s really sad, believe me, this is not one I wanted to do or come to lightly.”

Some high school directors were concerned that if students were required to socially distance on buses, getting their large bands to contests could require 20 to 25 buses, he said.

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Joe covers education for The World-Herald, focusing on pre-kindergarten through high school. Phone: 402-444-1077.

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