RGV marching bands compete in 77th Annual Pigskin Jubilee

Members of the PSJA Memorial marching band perform during the UIL 76th Annual Pigskin Jubilee Marching Contest at Richard R. Flores Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

EDINBURG — The sound of a drumline, like thunder in the distance, echoed here at Richard R. Flores Stadium as a high school marching band warmed up before taking the turf.

The crowd erupted with applause as the Hidalgo Pirates Marching Band — the first competing Saturday evening — entered the field at approximately 6:10 p.m. The band members marked time in unison with the taps from a snare drummer before taking their positions on the field.

The drum majors were given their cue to begin by the stadium announcer, and they responded with a salute before leading their band into the first song.

This was the scene at the Edinburg location of the 77th Annual Pigskin Jubilee, the culmination of months of work for local high school students. The marching competition was held at multiple locations throughout the Rio Grande Valley on Saturday.

“This is our 77th Annual Pigskin Jubilee. This event has a long-standing tradition that has been supported by our music community and family for almost 80 years,” explained Ruben Adame, head fine arts administrator for La Joya ISD as well as the UIL Region 15 executive secretary. “It’s the biggest UIL Marching Contest in the state when it comes to audience members.”

So large is the annual marching contest that the Region 15 marching contest has to be divided into two zones, east and west. Region 15 includes Edinburg, Hidalgo, La Joya, McAllen, Mission, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo, Rio Grande City, Roma, San Isidro, Sharyland, South Texas ISD and Valley View.

The east zone marching contest took place in Edinburg while the west zone marching contest was held at Tom Landry Stadium in Mission.

The bands which competed in Edinburg included Hidalgo, PSJA Memorial, PSJA Southwest, Valley View, Economedes, PSJA High, Edinburg High, Edinburg North, Robert Vela, PSJA North, McAllen Rowe, McAllen High and McAllen Memorial.

Those that competed at Tom Landry Stadium included Grulla, Rio Grande City, Sharyland Pioneer, Roma, Sharyland, Mission Veterans, La Joya Palmview, La Joya, La Joya Juarez Lincoln and Mission High.

Each band had five minutes to get set on the field. Some bands use this time for a quick warmup before beginning their performance. Once they are ready to begin, they have 10 minutes to perform their show, clear the field of any props they may have used in their show and exit the field.

As one band takes the field, the next band quickly moves into place on the side of the field, awaiting their turn to take the field in 10 short minutes in hopes that months of practice — sometimes in 100-plus degree heat over the summer — in addition to countless hours of sectionals finally pay off.

“We prepare for this competition as much as possible,” Edinburg North senior Perla Cantu said.

Even though it isn’t a state year for class 6A bands, Cantu, who is an All-State trombone player and drum major, said that preparations for the competition remain a priority.

“We always have the mentality of: ‘We need to represent our band program,’” Cantu added. “We have to leave a legacy for the following year. We have to always show everyone that we are Edinburg North. We are a really great band. Even though it’s not a state year, we can’t put it off. We just emphasize Pigskin as much as possible so that we still work as hard.”

As the Edinburg Economedes High School Band was entering the waiting area on the side of the field, senior baritone sax player and section leader Ethan Gallegos had one word to describe his emotions as he prepared to take the field for Pigskin one last time: exhilarating.

“It’s exhilarating because all this experience, all this pain, all this happiness, it’s just unbelievable,” Gallegos said. “I hope that every senior can leave with a (division) one and that all the freshman can experience their first (division) one.”

Adame, UIL Region 15 executive secretary, was able to confirm that all the bands in the east zone received a division one rating except for McAllen High and McAllen Memorial. As of press time, their results were unavailable.

He was also able to confirm that all the bands in the west zone received a division one rating except for Roma, who received a division two rating.