It’s no mystery that the Mountaineer Marching Band is beloved across the state of West Virginia.
But how much are they loved?
Enough for McDowell County officials to reschedule a high school football season opener to accommodate the “Pride of West Virginia?”
Yes, and that’s something they can toot their horn to.
It’s been nearly three decades since the Band performed for the fine folks of McDowell County – West Virginia University Extension agent Donald Reed has been keeping count.
So when President Gordon Gee swept through McDowell County this summer on his 55-county tour, Gee asked residents what the University could do for them.
Reed replied, “What would it take to bring the Mountaineer Marching Band to McDowell?”
Gee took Reed’s request back to Morgantown and Jay Drury, the Band’s director.
The nearly 400-member Band will perform at Riverview High School in Bradshaw at 6 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 28) prior to the “Battle of the Views” season opener between Riverview and Mount View. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
The game was bumped up a day earlier to fit the Mountaineer Marching Band’s schedule as it travels to Atlanta, Georgia, this weekend for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game pitting WVU against Alabama.
“To me, having President Gee honor our request shows that he really does believe what he said – that WVU is the people’s university,” Reed said. “McDowell is the farthest county away from WVU, but this request shows that we are not forgotten. It also will give our kids a small taste of the opportunities that await them in Morgantown.”
Drury said the Band, which is part of the WVU College of Creative Arts, will leave Morgantown early Thursday. President Gee will meet up with the crew and ride the bus into McDowell County.
The last time the Band played in the county was in 1988 at Mount View High School in Welch, Drury said.
“We’ll perform a pre-game show,” he said, “that will include patriotic and other standard tunes.
“We really like to believe that the Band belongs to the state. Our nickname, after all, is the ‘Pride of West Virginia.’ We take a lot of pride in that and we enjoy the opportunity to perform for folks in the state, especially those who don’t get to see us on a regular basis. It’s also great for our students to see other areas of the state and connect with fans they’d normally never get to meet.”
The Band isn’t stopping with McDowell County. At 10:30 a.m. Friday, they will roll over to H.P. Hunnicutt Field in Princeton (Mercer County) to perform for local schoolchildren.
Then it’s off to Atlanta where the band will meet up with the University of Alabama’s Million Dollar Band for a joint performance at the game.
To help defray 2014 travel costs for the “Pride of West Virginia,” the Pride Travel Fund, established by the WVU Foundation, is accepting donations. Along with the trip to the Georgia Dome, the Band also plans to travel to the Maryland game Sept. 13, as well as other locations around the state and region.
Thanks to Reed’s request, one of those first stops will be McDowell County.
“It will be amazing to have the WVU Band play at River View High School,” he said. “I have lived here most of my life and have been an agent for almost four years. One of my main roles is being an ambassador for my community, and the mission of Extension is to use University-level knowledge and research to help solve local problems. I was able to use the University connection to bring a chance of a lifetime to McDowell.”