KINGSPORT — The Fourth of July parade in Kingsport will have more than 100 entries — everything from patriotic floats and emergency and military vehicles to horses, cheerleaders and the always-present Shriners.
But what will be in short supply will be music, as only one local high school band has committed to marching in the parade on Wednesday.
The marching bands of Dobyns-Bennett High School and Sullivan North High School will not be in the parade on Wednesday. The only band committed is Sullivan South High School. For years, all three bands have performed in the Fourth of July parade.
“We are for sure, and we’re very excited about it,” said Kenneth Carrico, band director for Sullivan South.
The South marching band will include about 60 students and perform what Carrico calls Sousa-palooza — a compilation of John Philip Sousa’s marches.
Sherry Gillum, new band director at Sullivan North, said she wanted to have the marching band in the parade but could not since her first day on the job was Monday. Sullivan North’s marching band includes about 30 instruments and 15 flag members. Gillum said she hopes members of her band will participate in the upcoming Fun Fest parade.
Lafe Cook, band director at D-B, said he made the call not to be in the parade because of the low number of band members who would be in town this week.
“We canvassed our student attendance before the end of the school year to discover how many kids are going to be there. Most years we seem to be fine, but this year the number of kids who are available to attend was so low,” Cook said. “I think that’s a construct of the early start of school and the limited window we have to do various band camp rehearsals.”
D-B’s band had camp last week, and the two-week-long football band camp begins July 16. City school starts back Aug. 6.
“This is one of the few weeks band families have to get out of town,” Cook said.
D-B’s band has approximately 330 members and in years past for the Fourth of July parade, typically 100 to 120 members march, with a high year being 180 members. This year, only 50 to 60 members were available to march in the parade, Cook said.
“We didn’t feel like we had the student attendance to make it work, and it’s not just the number of kids — it has to do with which kids are available. The key upper classmen weren’t going to be available,” Cook said. “We didn’t have what we needed to put our best foot forward and are hoping that this is a one-year anomaly.”
Next year, July Fourth falls on a Thursday, and Cook said he plans to adjust the schedule to ensure more students are in town that week.
“There are going to be some disappointed people, but at the end of the day we feel like we should represent our school and our community at a level that meets the tradition and expectation of the program,” Cook said.
The 59th annual Mack Riddle American Legion Fourth of July Parade in Kingsport gets under way at 10 a.m. Wednesday, beginning at the Kingsport Renaissance Center and ending at the Kingsport Veterans Memorial at J. Fred Johnson Park.
The two-hour-long parade has been deemed one of the largest ones in Tennessee.