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Marching Blue Devils' new look

By By Adam Prestridge
Members of the Escambia County High School marching band will be stylin' when they step foot on the football field next Friday night.
In late July, second-year band director Luke Manning received a truckload of 22 oversized boxes containing new uniforms, which were donated by Bristol Eastern High School in Bristol, Conn.
"All administrators are members of an organization entitled CLAS, Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools, and its executive director is a member of some other group which is connected with Dr. Everett Lyons, who is the principal at Bristol Eastern High School," Manning explained. "From what I understand Bristol Eastern is a very large school; they are so large that they bought 100 uniforms last year and they were going to go back and get more because their band is bigger than 100 members. So they bought the 100 uniforms and went back to buy some more the next year and the style they had bought was discontinued."
According to Manning opposed to throwing the uniforms away, Lyons posted an e-mail to several people and organizations offering the year-old royal blue and slate gray uniforms to a band in need.
"To them the uniforms had become garbage because if you can't get your whole band in them or make modifications to get a majority of them in it, it's not really worth it," Manning said.
When Dr. John Draper, executive director for CLAS, heard of the offer, he sent a mass e-mail to administrators throughout the state. When Manning caught wind of it, he saw it as an opportunity for ECHS.
"For a lot of people, the uniforms wouldn't work," Manning said. "If their school colors were red, they couldn't wear blue uniforms, so they counted them out."
Manning got in touch with Draper to learn more about the uniforms and Draper then got him in touch with Lyons.
"After talking to Dr. Lyons, it seemed like we were the best fit out of the whole county, of the people who were solicited," Manning said. "Once they kind of picked us as the most fitting, they started the process of getting them back from their kids and getting them boxed up. They were all dry cleaned when we got them."
ECHS received pants, jackets, hats, hatboxes, several pairs of extra shoes, cords and silver buttons. The band will use their plumes from their old hats with the new uniforms.
"We didn't even have to pay for shipping," Manning said. "All I had to do was sign for the boxes and drag it in the school. It was completely free to our school system, school and band program."
Manning estimates the value of the uniforms at $30,000, excluding shipping.
"If you can get one kid outfitted in a full band uniform for $250, you're doing very good," Manning said. "These are not just the bare minimum. These are nice uniforms that will look sharp."
Not only will the ECHS band look different this year, Manning said they would sound stronger and appear more as one cohesive unit.
"They should expect to see a little bit larger band," Manning said. "We're about 15 members larger than last year. Fans should see a much more organized and larger color guard. Not only are they larger, but much better."
This year's band is 75 members strong including 43 instruments, 15 percussionists and 17 color guard members.
Manning said he is also hoping to instill more traditions this marching season.
"I want to bring back some stuff that had gone away the last several years," Manning said. "I know having so many directors over the past several years there were so many traditions lost. People from the community have come to me and asked why we didn't do something and it was because I wasn't aware of it. I'm becoming more familiar with what expectations of the band are as well as tradition from alumni of the band and people of the community. We hope to be more active this year."
When Manning came on board at ECHS last year, he marked the seventh director in as many years.
"I just enjoy it," Manning said.
Manning said the stability of having the same director this year has made a difference.
"This should just be a completely different band this year," Manning said. "As far as appearance as well as attitude and demeanor."