Pickerington's two high school marching bands will face a deeper pool of competition this weekend during the 37th annual Pickerington Marching Band Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Pickerington’s two high school marching bands will face a deeper pool of competition this weekend during the 37th annual Pickerington Marching Band Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1.

This year’s festival will feature 13 marching bands, up from six last year. The event will kick off at 5 p.m. at Pickerington High School North. Gates at Panther Stadium, 7800 Refugee Road, will open at 4 p.m.

Tickets for the festival will be available at the gate. The cost is $6 for adults and $4 for senior citizens and students.

Pickerington Local School District employees will be admitted for free.

“Including Pickerington Central and North, there will be 13 bands this year,” said Christine Oehlman, a member of the PHS Central Band Boosters. “We think we got more bands this year because we moved the date back.

“This date, instead of having it earlier, allows bands a little more time to practice,” she added.

The Pickerington Marching Band Festival was started in 1975 when Pickerington had just one high school and opportunities for students to shine in marching bands in Ohio were sparse.

Former Pickerington High School band director Pete Grasselli helped establish the festival.

Since the construction of a second high school, the festival has been hosted alternately by PHS North and Central.

In addition to the two local bands, competitors this year will include high school marching bands from Berne Union, Bloom-Carroll, Canal Winchester, Dublin Jerome, Fairbanks, Hilliard Bradley, Liberty Union, Licking Heights, Madison Plains, Marietta and Meigs high schools.

As always, a panel of Ohio Music Education Association judges will grade each band’s performance. Those that earn top honors will qualify to compete at a state marching band contest later this year, and the festival’s grand champion will receive $200.

The festival will have four separate divisions. In addition to vying for a slot in a state contest, the bands also will be competing for awards for “Outstanding Marching,” “Outstanding Music,” “Outstanding General Effects,” “First Place Percussion,” “First Place Auxiliary” and the Esprit de Corps Award.

The latter award honors a band that exhibits the spirit of Mike Martin, a 1976 graduate of Pickerington High School and first-chair bass drummer in the school’s marching band.

Martin was known throughout his high school days for having a beaming demeanor and deep love for music. After high school, he spent hours helping local high school drummers hone their skills and find joy through music.

At 25, Martin, his wife and a stepchild were killed en route to Disney World when their vehicle was struck by a drunk driver at the Ohio-Kentucky border.

Since then, he has been remembered through the Esprit de Corps Award, which was established by his father, the late Chuck Martin, a former Pickerington school board member and owner of Ohio Select Printed Fabrics. The company still is operated by the Martin family in Reynoldsburg.

“It’s a family event,” Oehlman said of the festival. “Kids really enjoy listening to the big kids play, as well as watch them march.

“We’ve got some really good bands coming. It should be exciting.”

New to this year’s festival will be a hospitality tent, which will have a television with a live feed of the festival, and food catered by Uno Chicago Grill. The tent is open to visiting schools’ band directors.

Also, WSNY Sunny95 will play music and provide ice cream to attendees from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m.