Batavia is a strong community. We support one another in joy, in tragedy, in sorrow and in need. And yes, we support our beloved Bulldogs.
The memory of the last state run is still vivid, especially for those of us who made the trip to University of Illinois and watched as the stadium filled with fan after fan decked out in crimson and gold. According to the commentators, it was the largest crowd in the history of the state championship.
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And who can forget the high school basketball championship decades ago that credited the Batavia Bulldogs in their bright red shoes as being some of the nicest kids in the tournament. We didn't win, but those were proud moments, nevertheless.
This weekend, we have two opportunities to show community support. On Saturday, Nov. 30, we can make the trip to DeKalb to support our football team. On Sunday, Dec. 1, we can head to the Celebration of Lights in downtown Batavia and support our musicians.
Premiering at this annual celebration will be the new Community Band, made up of more than 60 band members, ages 18 and older, under the direction of Batavia's own music man, John Heath.
Behind the organization of the band is Batavia's own "first lady," Linda Schielke.
"When I was in high school, I played percussion in the band," said Schielke.
"When I went to college at the U of I, I knew the band had a pretty rigorous schedule so I didn't try out."
Too bad. Freshman Linda Schielke might have had the opportunity to meet senior, John Heath, two-time band president of the Marching Illini, the only student to ever attain that status.
Years later, Schielke would have her first opportunity to play in a Batavia band.
"Elwood Willey was so kind to me when I came to Batavia," she said. "I was a teacher at Louise White and Elwood was there conducting the fifth-grade band. At one of their concerts, he invited me to join the band and play the bass drum. He even gave me a medal at the end of the year."
Schielke missed playing in a band and found that others did too. She contacted recently retired Heath, and together, the two put the wheels in motion for a community band.
"I was amazed at how many people came out," said Heath. "We have former band members of mine along with people who have played in concert bands, military bands and rock bands. I was especially surprised at how many parents of former students played band instruments."
The band has the challenges of dealing with busy schedules and tries to accommodate as many as possible.
"We wanted to keep it fun," said Schielke. "No pressure, no grades, no credits, just coming together for the joy of creating music."
Surprisingly, three violinists walked in the door.
"I asked one of the violinists about playing in cold weather but she said she had a second violin just for that purpose." said Heath. "And luckily, we have a harmonica player who can double on some parts."
Heath also has former Rotolo Middle School band director Mike Stiers in the band, a welcome addition.
"Mike has been great about helping me locate some low bass instruments for some members," he said.
Heath also had the joy of seeing 14 flute players show up for the first rehearsal.
There may be only four trombone players, but as Meredith Willson wrote in "The Music Man," "They were followed by rows and rows of the finest virtuosos and reeds of every shape and kind."
Get those parkas, hats and mittens out and head to DeKalb for the big game on Saturday and then pull them out again for the debut performance of the community band at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Riverwalk.
Whether football or band, we support our community. We are Batavia, and we couldn't be prouder.