Pickerington's annual autumn tradition of celebrating pomp and pageantry, along with marching and music, returns Sept. 23 with the 43rd Pickerington Marching Band Festival.

Fourteen high school marching bands and some 1,300 students will be showcased Saturday, Sept. 23, when the Pickerington Marching Band Festival returns to Pickerington High School North, 7800 Refugee Road.

This year, gates at Panther Stadium open for the festival at 4 p.m., and bands are slated to begin their performances at 5 p.m.

They'll each be vying for nods from judges as the region's top performing marching bands, as well as for the best show of spirit.

Additionally, the festival gives each entrant a chance to qualify for the Ohio Music Education Association's state band competition in November.

"The Pickerington Band Festival is one of the premiere and longest lasting community events in Pickerington," said PHS North Band Director Marc Parulekar.

"We are able to showcase what young people can do when they put aside differences and work together towards a common goal."

Parulekar said the North marching Panthers will feature 192 students, and will perform a "Metamorphosis" show with the music of Mozart and Adele.

Pickerington High School Central Band Director Nathan Stowe will have 181 students in the show. His Marching Tigers plan a special performance to honor former Pickerington High School and PHS Central Director of Bands Michael D. Sewell.

The longtime educator, who took his bands to the Tournament of Roses Parade four times, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parades four times, three Fiesta Bowl parades and two Orange Bowl parades, died of a heart-related incident April 15.

"Our show is a tribute to the late director of bands at Central, Michael D. Sewell," Stowe said. "We are using a program theme he often used, titled 'Angels Dreams' and 'Miracles.'

"(The festival has) been a traditional event in the community for many years. It allows us to show off the musical and athletic abilities of so many students from Pickerington."

The Pickerington bands are expected to begin their shows about 9:30 p.m.

Prior to the Pickerington bands' performances, high school bands slated to perform are Circleville, Dublin Scioto, Elgin, Fairfield Union, Franklin Heights, London, Meadowbrook, Millersport, Teays Valley, Troy, Marietta and Zanesville.

In addition to the tradition of the festival and the high level of competition, both Pickerington directors said a special part of this year's event will be a joint performance by the Central and North bands.

"It is really special to see both bands come together at the end of the festival to perform our traditional music warmup, 'Amazing Grace,' " Parulekar said.

Tickets to the festival can be purchased at the gate. They will be $6 for adults and $4 for children, with proceeds benefitting the Central and North band programs for the purchase of items such as instruments and sheet music.