Newman Catholic football fans only got to pack the home field stands twice this season, but they saw history made nonetheless.
For the first time in at least 40 years, the Newman Catholic marching band performed at halftime of the team's games. The band made its premiere on Sept. 25 during the Knights' home opener against Lake Mills, and played again on Oct. 2, in the game against St. Ansgar.
A roar went up from the crowd when the band was introduced.
"Every time they moved, the crowd went wild," Newman Catholic band director Mary Kate Hines said. "Little things, like a lunge or a horn pop. I told the kids that it was going to be low-key marching band this year. We found out that their definition of low key and my definition are a little bit different. That is okay, because they saw that something as simple as lunging out or turning your instrument to the side makes a crowd go nuts."
In previous years, the band would sit in the stands and perform as a "pep band." But due to social distancing restrictions, and the safety of outdoor practices, Hines decided to revive the long-dormant marching band.
"Over the summer with all this COVID stuff, I was reading a lot of research of the studies they were doing in Colorado about the spread of aerosol and playing instruments," Hines said. "Consistently, they say that it's safer to be outside than inside. That is what made me think, 'we haven’t had a marching band here in a long time, but that is what made me decide, let’s give it a try this year.'"
Hines is not exactly sure when Newman Catholic last had a marching band, but fellow teachers tell her it has been at least 40 years.
Hines is in her second year teaching at Newman Catholic, and admits that the process of putting together a marching band has been stressful at times. As a young teacher, she has never taught marching band before, and was worried about things like being on the field at the right time.
There is a lot more that goes into marching band preparations than for pep band, with things like drill, marching coordination, and even what songs to choose, that would make for an entertaining show.
With all the COVID-19 health restrictions and guidelines, it has been a wild year for everyone, the Newman band included. While the new, on-field performances can be nerve-wracking, Hines is choosing to embrace the scare.
"That is something we’ve talked a lot about this quarter," Hines said. "It’s new, it’s changed. It's unexpected, and out of our comfort zone and scary, but how can we make still make it the best experience that we can, regardless of all the things against us?"
As a senior, band member Jacob Wolf said that he is proud to be a part of a group that is making school history.
"It’s been kind of a new experience, to say the least," Wolf said. "It’s kind of surprising that this is my senior year and this is the first time we’ve done something like this. It's a change, but it's a good new change all the same."
Judging by the team's energetic performances, and the crowd's reaction to their appearance, enthusiasm for the band is high. As a Class 1A school, the smaller number of students can make it more difficult to have a marching band, but the hope is that this time, the band is here to stay.
So far, the feedback from the athletes, fans, and administration has been extremely positive.
"I think its great having them able to perform at halftime of the football games," athletic director Alex Bohl said. "It brings a new dynamic to the night. Our fans enjoyed having them perform and we will look forward to seeing their progress for years to come."
Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette.com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.