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Coastal Empire Classic to march on despite COVID-19
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The Georgia Southern University Southern Pride Marching Band rushes onto Rebel Field during the 2019 Coastal Empire Classic. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — Pandemic-related disruptions have made it difficult for some of the area’s best high school bands to find their competitive rhythm. The Effingham County Rebel Regiment is one of them

“The August (COVID-19) surge hit us pretty bad with quarantines and things,” Rebel Regiment Director Will Alford said. “For instance, we were missing 25 percent of our group for most of August. It wasn’t necessarily from sick kids — just the mandatory quarantine that would take place if you were within a certain distance of a kid who got sick.”

Alford admitted the situation is terribly frustrating.

“It’s nearly impossible to do anything in terms of drills just because the kids are all dependent on each other,” he said. “Life was very interesting in August and the worst part about it is you’d get one kid back and another kid would leave ,so any retention of the material that you had taught was gone.”

COVID-19 has also lessened participation in the 40th Coastal Empire Classic that is set Saturday at Rebel Field. It will feature topnotch bands from Brunswick, Camden County, Colleton County (S.C.), Glynn Academy, Mount de Sales, and South Effingam.

The Rebel Regiment will perform and be judged but it isn’t part of the competition. The Georgia Southern University Southern Pride Marching Band will also put on an exhibition.

“A lot of folks are very behind right now, especially with competitions early in the season,” Alford said. “Participation just isn’t been that strong. Everyone is doing the best they can but a lot of folks just aren’t competing this year.”

Alford said his band routinely practiced without 40-50 members.

“I think the last two weeks the most we’ve had out is 10. That’s a significant improvement over what it was in August.

“We are happy where we are going but, obviously, that is still a lot out for us. We are typically used to two to five (members) out for whatever reason.”

Competitive bands typically add elements to their halftime shows during each week of football season.

“I’d say we’re usually 25-30 percent farther along than where we are now,” Alford said. “We’ve made adjustments to what we do. We’ve made it a lot easier as time has gone on.

“We’ve had some drill rewrites and that kind of thing.”

COVID-19 adversely effected the 2020 Coastal Empire Classic, too.

“We held an event but it was not a competition,” Alford said. “It was just kind of a come-and-play-and-play-and-in-front-of-a-crowd-and-appreciate-what-you-are-doing kind of thing.”

The classic will somewhat return to normal Saturday as each performance will be judged.

“We wanted to host a competition for those interested in coming and provide an opportunity for them to perform in front of judges and a crowd that appreciates what they do,” Alford said.

Alford looks forward to hearing what the judges have to say about his band even though it won’t be competing for a trophy.

“Any comments we get from those judges at our competition helps us prepare for future competitions as well,” he said. “It’s very, very useful for our kids.”

The classic is also useful from a financial standpoint. It is the Rebel Regiment’s biggest annual fundraiser.

“We hope people will come out, watch some good bands and eat some good food,” Alford said. “This is how we pay for those uniforms, get instruments for the kids and take care of them. This is how we do it.

“Every dollar spend goes toward the band program.”

The classic will start at 5 p.m. The cost of admission is $8.