JOHNSTOWN - As the Greater Johnstown School District Winter Guard, Marching Band and other music programs gear up for the start of a new school year, members of the community gathered to support them at the first ever Music and Arts Festival Saturday at the Johnstown Area Community Center.
The event was organized by the Johnstown Music Support Group with the help of Johnstown Area Community Center officials. The festival drew a steady crowd throughout the day with its live music, carnival-type games, bounce houses, silent auction, pulled pork dinner and even a homemade pie contest that drew some interesting entries - like Shoefly Pie, which won in the category of "most original."
The Johnstown Citizens Band performed, followed by Jazz Train, a band made up of student jazz musicians, Galaxy and then The Outlaws.
The Leader-Herald/Amanda Whistle
Hailey Heckle of Johnstown, left, and Nalzon Henry of Canajoharie play a fishing game at the Music and Arts Festival at the Johnstown Area Community Center on Saturday.
The Winter Guard also performed a show the students created themselves, Winter Guard Director Christine VanValkenburgh said.
Radio station Pyx 106 personality "Uncle Vito" - Gary Locatelli - helped host the event, and said he thought the Jazz Train and the Winter Guard captured the spirit of the event.
"It was good to see young people playing jazz and performing Glen Miller, you know," he said. "They kind of embodied what this is about."
Locatelli said as someone who has made a career out of his love of music, it's important that music programs not get shoved aside for other academic or athletic pursuits.
"My only disappointment is that this is even necessary," he said. "I think it should be funded by the schools. Music stays with you the rest of your life."
For Travis Miller - a member of the Winter Guard, Marching Band and Jazz Train - fundraisers like the festival are crucial considering the costs associated with uniforms and trips to perform at competitions like the upcoming Winter Guard International in Dayton, Ohio.
"It's extremely important for us," Miller, who is going to be a junior, said.
VanValkenburgh said the Winter Guard, which had about 50 students on the team last year, is like a family for the kids.
"These kids are completely devoted to this sport," she said. "They practice hundreds of hours. We really banded together and got close. It is a family and the district has been so supportive of us."
President of the Music Support Group Robin Kane said organizing fundraisers and working together brings the parents and students even closer and creates a sense of camaraderie.
"Everyone really pulled together," she said, adding that she hopes to hold the event again next year, with some of the bands performing outside.
She said that the group didn't really have a goal for how much money they hoped to raise and didn't have a figure Saturday afternoon, but she was optimistic.
"We're hoping everything will pull together well," she said. "Everybody has been great and we're working on doing it again next year."
Another member of the group, Lavina Town, who ran the pie contest, said she thought the event did well for its first year.
"I think there was a lot of support," she said. "It was a wonderful day and there were a lot of people who gave us donations."
Several businesses donated items and gift certificates to be raffled in the silent auction. The pies for the contest were submitted and then sold by the slice or pie as part of the fundraiser.
The JACC also helped the group secure some bounce houses, each of which had steady lines.
Galaxy, a husband and wife team that plays country music and oldies, stepped in after some of the other bands weren't able to make it.
Kathy Bradt said the band couldn't say no to a good cause.
"Music is a hobby, but it could also be a job opportunity," she said, adding that music students have a variety of opportunities.
Her husband, Beaver, said that music is so important because it surrounds our daily lives.
"Your hear music in your car, your iPod, your computer," he said. "It's everywhere and people take it for granted sometimes. Without schools teaching music, you might not have that."
For more information about the Johnstown Music Support Group, visit their Facebook page.
Amanda Whistle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org