16th Annual IVMEA Halftime Festival

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EL CENTRO – Cal Jones Field was the place to be on Tuesday evening for the 16th annual IVMEA Halftime Festival. It was an unseasonably warm fall evening with the stands filled on both sides as six marching bands represented Holtville, Southwest, Brawley, Imperial, Calexico and Central high schools.

This was a halftime show to display the hard work that each band member has invested since before the school year began. Long practices were evident as each band’s performance exemplified precise movements and musical melodies for the delight of the fans in the stands.

The Great Spartan Band began the show with their rendition of the National Anthem which preceded the first performance by the Holtville Viking Band of Pride. Under the direction of Thomas Obeso and Drum Major Evelyn Ambrosio, the band’s uniform of Valhalla green jackets with gold striping and black pants adorned the 50 plus members.

A theme of “Dark Shadows” had songs “Prologue Murder”, “Bella’s Lullaby” and “Sleepy Hollow”. The band for its smaller size was able to use a lot of the field and still maintain great sound and balance. The band had lots of movement, outstanding contrasts and was a crowd pleasing way to start the evening.

Dressed in their black with long purple capes and Vegas gold, the Southwest Eagles Band under the direction of Patrick Yanni and drum major Warren Sanchez took the field. They were accompanied by the Eagle Drill and Flag teams which are under the direction of Alicia Tostado.

The Eagle group was 90 plus strong and their show consisted of highlights of the 2013 season. Songs they played were “Malaguena” from their Latin show earlier this year and “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas.

The drumline was spotlighted while the band shuffled to its next formation to begin their third song “Talk To Me, Dance With Me” by Hot Hot Heat. They ended with their fourth song that brought the biggest reaction of the night. They played “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, but in the middle of the song the band members put their instruments down and all members of the Eagle Band and Auxiliary did the famous “Thriller” dance. All that was missing was a Vincent Price rap at the end of the song.

Amy Jo Dailey and her Brawley Wildcat Marching band were next as drum majors Julio Dominguez and Marlene Ramirez guided their band out onto the field. This is one of the Wildcats biggest bands in decades as they are 80 plus members.

Dressed in royal blue and goldenrod they intended to have fans dancing in their seats to the Latin beats. “Caliente” was the first song followed by a drumline solo. Their second selection, a song by J-Lo had many cheering but when the band began dancing “The Bernie” during another drumline solo, the crowd erupted. They ended with “Living the Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin then marched off the field in cadence by the drums.

The Pride of the Imperial Tigers was next and showcased a performance that left many in awe. Under the direction of Brooke David Kofford, a themed “One World” show with music by Joseph Curiale was displayed.

The level of difficulty in both movement and music was evidence of the many extra hours of practice this band must have put in to perfect their show. It was an orchestra on the football field and it was choreographed to a tee.

Drum majors Carlos Gomez and Savannah McElvaney guided the band to four selections; “The Call of the Mountain”, “Adelina De Maya”, “River of Tears” and “Joy”. It was preceded by “It’s a Small World” on xylophones as the performance unfolded. The music pieces although not well-known to most, were exceptionally well played and enhanced with great contrasts and balance. They thanked George Scott, the Choir’s director, for his inspiration and his daughter for narration.

The Calexico Mighty Bulldog Marching band followed and they presented their 2013 tribute to “Les Miserables” in four parts. Director Carlos Navarrette and Drum Major Luis Romero recently guided the Mighty Bulldog band to 1st Place at the Chula Vista/Otay Ranch Band Review. The songs chosen were “Work Song”, “At the End of the Day”, “One More Day”, “Battle of Rue Plumet”, and “I Dreamed a Dream”.

The songs were preceded by a John Phillip Sousa march. There was a lot of movement by the entire band with eight tuba players. It also had seven xylophones, kettle drums, and chimes on the sidelines. At the conclusion of their last song, the Mighty Bulldogs marched off to the Bulldog Fight song.

Last to take the field was the Great Spartan Band. Under the direction of Renee Baker, the hosts did not disappoint the crowd. Running on to the field and bunching up at the fifty yard line, members opened up like a flower blossoming and exposed its 150+ band.

They immediately went into their rendition of “Call Me, Maybe” while side stepping, kicking and swaying to the beat. They marched to the traditional drum cadence Central has been known for and will be on everyone’s mind for days to come.

Once in their next formation, the band with the award winning Spartan Drill team and Flag team were featured. Drum Majors Brianna Rodriguez and Sonny Givens continued a tribute to the best of the best with a second song by The White Stripes-“Seven Nations Army”. Marching in cadence to their next formation they played “Can’t Hold Us”. The Great Spartan Band ended the evening with Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”.

Often referred to as the “Battle of the Bands” the Halftime Festival is anything but that. There are no judges scoring, just fans and those that appreciate music and fun. It is a show that gives the public a chance to see all the Imperial Valley high school bands at one venue. It rewards the kids for all the effort they put in at practices. If you didn’t see it this year or ever, it is highly recommended to mark it on your calendar for next year. You will not be disappointed.

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