Big Red Band marks 90 years with reunion

PARKERSBURG – Not many things last 90 years, especially when teenagers are involved.

The Parkersburg High School Big Red Band, a Parkersburg tradition, can say it has accomplished such a feat as of Saturday.

Many alumni and current band members got together for a celebration/reunion Saturday night to commemorate the impressive feat.

Just ask PHS grad Bill Parrish what an impressive feat it is.

“I went to a few different high schools, a couple of colleges, and spent 20 years in the Air Force, and I can honestly say the Big Red Band was able to get a group of people to work together toward a common goal like nothing I’ve ever been involved with before or since. When you think about getting 120, 130, or 150 teenagers together to do ANYTHING, mayhem is the usual result. But somehow, the members of the band were able to work and march and play together to build something greater than the sum of it’s parts,” said Parrish.

“I have a recording of the ’77 Spring Concert that I listen to on occasion, and I’ve played it for friends who can’t believe that it’s a high school band. I honestly believe the lessons I learned in the band helped me grow into a better, more focused adult. Oh, and it was a helluva lotta fun, too,” he said.

“It is so great seeing everyone come together and each one of us have something in common with everyone else here,” event organizer Dena Leasure said Saturday.

Leasure was contacted by current band director Dan White four months ago and has been coordinating with other members since March.

“I had a little notebook that had everything in it, what people told me they would bring, what they promised to do, what was happening, everything,” Leasure said. “I devoted three hours a day to the planning since I heard about it four months ago.”

The party – which was held Saturday evening at the PHS Band Room – got underway early Saturday with several members meeting up and riding on a float in the Parkersburg Homecoming Parade at noon along Market Street. A total of 40-45 members showed up and marched in the parade in front of the Big Red Band float.

Things took a lull until 6 p.m. Saturday when about 250 former band members showed up at the band room for dinner and camaraderie.

The libations began with the first all-female snare drum line along with the rest of the percussion line marching into the band room playing the traditional cadence, followed by dinner and more recollections.

“I am absolutely amazed at all the people who showed up,” Leasure said. “It says a lot about the Big Red Band and how many people it has touched and what it means to all these people to attend.”

In attendance were people from seven decades of the band, including 1942 class member Duke Adkinson, one of the oldest surviving band members.

The reunion also saw the creation of the Big Red Band Foundation and the announcement from former PHS and Philadelphia Philharmonic trumpet player Roger Blackburn that a book detailing the history of the band was in the works.

“The band was a huge part of my life and everyone who is here today and we want it to get the attention it deserves in the upcoming book,” said Blackburn.