As the high school football season draws to a close, normally the marching band season would too. This year is different for members of the Grove City High School Marching Band.

As the high school football season draws to a close, normally the marching band season would too. This year is different for members of the Grove City High School Marching Band.

They're going to the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.

Over the years, the band has achieved several milestones: winning Grand Champion at every competition for the last five years, competing out of state, performing at the Rose Bowl twice and even performing at the request of the Queen of England at the New Year's Day Parade in London.

But never has the band gone to a competition as large as the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Fiesta Bowl National Band Competition.

"We've not competed in a national field show before," said George Edge, 22-year veteran band director and 2007 Ohio Teacher of the Year. "We're going to see some phenomenal high school bands."

The 221-member marching band will pack up all its equipment and head to Arizona on two chartered flights Dec. 30 and will compete in the preliminary round of the competition Jan. 1, 2009.

The band will have to practice its routine an extra two months to stay sharp, Edge said.

"It's definitely got some pressure," said Jinny Hall, marching band secretary and senior clarinet player. "But we're willing to step up to the challenge."

Nevertheless, before they compete in Arizona, band members had to step up to the challenge of paying $1,500 each to go on the trip.

"It's a lot, so we've been doing fundraisers galore for the past couple months," said assistant band director Tom Traini.

Traini said students have worked concession stands at Columbus Crew games and the Columbus Arts Festival, sold cookbooks, sausage and cheese -- anything to add money to defer some of the cost.

Junior flute player Layle Ledbetter said she has done so much fundraising that she's totally covered the cost of the trip, but most students will have to pay about $400.

Traini said the $1,500 covers transportation, food and lodging for the entire trip from Dec. 30 to Jan. 4. He added that the band directors realize the cost of the trip is a lot and do not require students to go.

"I'm really excited," said freshman mellophone player Erin Tolar. "I've never done anything like this before."

"I'm so psyched," said junior marimba player Kathryn Gusler.

In a letter dated July 15, Edge asked local businesses to donate to the band boosters. According to the letter, the organization will not only need money for each student, but also additional funds to ship larger instruments and props for the show.

Without those funds, the band won't be as competitive against larger, better-funded bands across the nation, Edge said in the letter.

Traini said this year's show, "A Day at the Carnival," features larger props. Band members erect carnival tents in the backfield as scenery for the show.

City Council members recently approved a donation of nearly $7,000 to purchase jackets for band members to wear during the trip.

"The community does a wonderful job supporting the band, because they really like the band," Edge said.

Allan Sun, band president and senior trombone player, said going to Tempe for the competition is good publicity for Grove City.

"It's our responsibility to represent our town on a national scale," he added. "It's nice to go on a big trip."

Then again, anytime the band goes on a trip, big or small, it's representing the city, said Tom Johnson, band vice president and senior alto saxophone player.

"We're always representing," Hall added.

Edge said the donation shows that city leaders believe in the youth of the community and it will help the band to perform at its best level against the nation's best high school marching bands.

"I always tell them iron sharpens iron," Edge added. "I will be happy with the band if they make it to the finals.

"I think they'll have done Ohio proud."

ebrooks@thisweeknews.com