About 166 Big Red Band members and staff will begin their journey to Atlanta this evening (Dec. 27), after a year of fundraisers with many contributions from the local community.

About 166 Big Red Band members and staff will begin their journey to Atlanta this evening (Dec. 27), after a year of fundraisers with many contributions from the local community.

Assistant marching band director Dennis Moore said the group will leave Johnstown at 10 p.m. Sunday and take up its full itinerary at Stone Mountain Park on Monday morning, Dec. 28.

Big Red Band director Joe Carver told The Independent the trip will provide a good opportunity for J-M students to see what goes on outside of the mid-Ohio band circuit.

The band was invited to Georgia following an application process that included a video and photos of the band's performance.

Fundraisers have been held throughout the year, including a Midnight Train to Georgia Auction at Scion Farms that raised $20,000. The Mary E. Babcock Foundation donated $16,400 - $100 for each band member taking the trip. Many other contributions from businesses and community members were also provided for the effort.

The Big Red Band will be showcased in the Field Show Festival competition in the Georgia Dome, home of the Atlanta Falcons, beginning at 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 29. Prior to the competition, band members will tour the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium.

On Wednesday, Dec. 30, the Big Red Band will attend an awards ceremony as a follow-up to Tuesday's competition at 7 p.m. at the Georgia International Convention Center. A semi-formal dance will be held for the students.

The band will march in the Chick-fil-A Bowl parade beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 31. Later that day, the band will perform in the bowl pre-game, set to begin at 7 p.m. The band will also be featured during half-time of the bowl game, which pits the University of Tennessee against Virginia Tech.

A New Year's Eve celebration for the J-M band students will be held at the Marriot in Atlanta. The group will leave Georgia on New Year's Day morning and arrive home at 9:30 p.m.

A DVD will be available for purchase of the band's performances at the Georgia Dome for $45. The disc will include highlights from the parade, pre-game and half-time performance as well as the field competition. It can be ordered online at www.bowlgamedvd.com.