April 30, 2004

Swan Song for Beloved Maytime Band Review Parade

National City’s Legendary Competition To End May 1 After 57 Years

San Diego County’s oldest and most esteemed parade will march off into the sunset this year. National City’s classic Maytime Band Review, the West’s biggest showcase of marching band music, is calling it quits after this year’s parade on May 1.

Founded in 1940, the band review has showcased California’s best secondary school marching bands and drill teams. But after 56 years the parade’s venerable planning committee confesses it is running out of steam.

“Our committee is getting older and we have not been able to find younger people to take over,” said Edith Hughes, executive director. “The band review requires a great number of committed people because there is so much to do. We just haven’t been able to regenerate our committee.”

The Ingelwood Band at the Maytime Band Review Parade in 1968.

California’s budget woes have also taken a tool on the parade. When the state budget suffers, so does education funding. Music and art programs are often cut back. Large marching bands and auxiliary units suffer cuts in many areas, including transportation. Soaring gas prices are also a factor.

“A lot of bands that are eligible to compete and would like to come to the band review can’t come up with the money for travel and lodging,” Hughes said. “It’s a real shame that so many students have worked and practiced so hard for so long and then can’t come down for the competition.”

Also figuring in the decision to end the parade are plans by National City government to perform a facelift on Highland Avenue. Plans to install islands of trees and landscaping down the middle of the street would render it unusable for the parade. Hughes said National City has no other thoroughfares suitable to host the band review.

“The city council is eager to beautify the city and spruce up Highland Avenue much like it did National City Boulevard, “Hughes said. “In the long run that would be good for the city. But it really cripples the Maytime Band Review.”

Hughes admits the planning committee is saddened by the looming end of the band review, but said her team is planning a spectacle that will give it a memorable send off. The committee and special guests will celebrate 57 yeas of Maytime at an extravaganza the evening before the finale. This year’s parade program will feature photographs and history recapping the band review’s rich heritage, she said.

“We’re going to go out with a band,” promised Anne Campbell, co-General Chairperson of this year’s parade.

Campbell, head National City librarian, and co-chair Dr. Ed Reed, a retired Sweetwater High School District music teacher, are planning a musical production to celebrate Maytime’s 57 years of history.

In the meantime, Bonita Vista High School’s marching band is hoping to make some history of its own. The Baron Blue Brigade has already accomplished the unprecedented. Now it is attempting what was once the unthinkable.

BVH has won a record seven consecutive Maytime Band Review parades and is working to win eight straight at this year’s grand finale. The Barons seem confident they can continue their streak as the only Maytime champion of the 21st century.

But no one is ducking the challenge. The band review will showcase almost 40 secondary school bands fighting to wrestle the sweepstakes trophy away from the Bonita dynasty. The parade steps off at 10:30 a.m.

The Maytime Band Review is the largest annual marching music competition west of the Mississippi river and San Diego County’s biggest parade. Last year’s event drew nearly 30,000 spectators. Bleacher seating is available for $2 on a reserved basis by calling the National City Chamber of Commerce at 477-9339. The remainder of the parade route is open on a first-come, first-serve basis without charge.

The BVH Marching Band and Auxiliary Units are a Cinderella story worthy of Hollywood. Just a few years ago the Chula Vista school’s music program was in disarray and the band dissolved. But all that changed in 1997 when the upstart Barons upset a trio of powerful Los Angeles County bands to win the Sweepstakes Trophy. Last year the Bonita Vista musicians and drill teams once again dominated the parade and swept all four of the major trophies, including a seventh consecutive Sweepstakes Award. They also captured the Harlan Skinner Musical Performance Trophy, the John Dyster Showmanship Trophy and the Edith Hughes Auxiliary Units Sweepstakes.

Hughes and former National City mayor Kile Morgan are co-Grand Mashalls of this year’s band review.

Hughes has served as executive director of the Maytime Band Review for 54 years. She was also the grand marshal of the 2000 parade. In 1992 she was honored by the executive committee with a perpetual trophy for auxiliary units in her name.

The parade will begin at 28th Street near Sweetwater High School and proceed north along Highland Avenue to 16th Street.

The Maytime Band Review began in 1948 as the brandchild of the National City Chamber of Commerce as National City’s salute to National Music Week. The first review featured 11 bands, all from within San Diego County.

Following its unassuming start, the Maytime Band Review experienced explosive growth. By 1954 it had more than 100 entries and lasted more than four hours. To maintain manageability, subsequent parade were limited to high school and junior high bands. New entries must demonstrate a track record by scoring well in other parades before gaining eligibility to compete in the in the Maytime.

The goal of the parade remains the same today as it was 57 years ago -- to provide a showcase for young musicians and to give San Diego County residents an opportunity to enjoy the pageantry and music of marching bands.

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