The 34th annual Lake Park Lancer Joust held Saturday in Roselle is a marching band festival, but everyone involved -- from performers to band directors to pit crew parents to competition organizers -- knows there's much more to the event than stepping across a football field.
For performers, the day is primarily about competing for the first time this season with a new show, remembering under pressure the notes, steps, field placement, even choreography accompanying several movements of music often lasting between 10 and 15 minutes. It's a day when the bands themselves, not the football teams they support with pep music and halftime shows, take center stage.
"Everyone's here to listen to the marching bands," said Becky Steele, drum major of the Waubonsie Valley High School marching Warriors. "You get a lot of goose bumps. ... You can tell at the end if it's a good show by how everyone is smiling."
But Lancer Joust day also is about mastering the art of changing into and out of a multiple-piece uniform in the tight confines of a crowded school bus with dozens of sweaty bandmates. It's balancing atop metal bleachers while holding heavy instruments for several formal band photos and a few silly ones, and scoping out the competition for future shows.
"I love hearing the music from other bands," Steele said.
This year's joust featured 16 bands competing in three size divisions and Lake Park High School's own marching band performing an exhibition show, said Lancer Joust coordinator Jim Wronski, who has been organizing the event for 13 years.
Last year's competition featured 26 bands, but this year's still includes perennial marching powerhouses such as the Prospect High School Marching Knights and the Lincoln-Way East Marching Griffins -- and this year, Prospect edged out Lincoln-Way to win the contest.
"As far as bands that count, all the ones that you'd expect are still here," Wronski said, including the bands from Wheeling, Wheaton North, Elk Grove and Naperville North high schools. "We have several bigger bands and their shows are fantastic."
Naperville North finished ninth in the competition. Waubonsie Valley High School, based in Aurora, finished sixth. Wheeling High School finished fourth.
Supporting the estimated 2,000 marching performers who took to the field Saturday were about 225 volunteers affiliated with Lake Park and hundreds of other parents whose main role is to ensure large percussion equipment makes it to the track around the football field in time for their band's show.
"It's about watching the kids and the parents getting together to figure out how to get all their stuff where it needs to go on time," said Bill Engebretson, parent of Wheeling High School sophomore baritone player Ashley Engebretson.
Wheeling High School's pit crew parents brought a TV to watch football after their kids took the field and before judges chose which bands would make the competition's final round based on their scores for musical and visual effect.
Winning bands were to be listed on lancerjoust.com after the 10:15 p.m. awards ceremony.