More than 70 high school marching bands to converge on the Tulsa area Saturday

Severe storms threaten competitions at Union, Jenks and Charles Page high schools

It's stressful enough worrying about the safety of one family during severe storms.

Imagine the stress of worrying about hundreds of children who are all scheduled to be outside when the storm hits.

That's exactly the position Union High School band director Matt McCready will be in this weekend.

Union is hosting the Renegade Review marching band competition at Tuttle Stadium Saturday.

21 bands are entered in the competition.

The prelims start at 9am  and last all day with 12 bands advancing to finals that evening.

The Oklahoma Bandmasters Association is also hosting it's state 4A and 5A marching band championships at Jenks High School and the state 1A and 3A championships at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs Saturday.

51 bands are slated to perform in those competitions.

McCready is well aware of the forecast for Saturday and the weather will be his number one concern during the competition.

"The show will go on rain-or-shine," says McCready.

However, even a light shower poses risks to marching band performers.

Many of the instruments set-up along the front sideline, what's called the 'front ensemble' or 'pit', rely on electricity to power amplifiers, synthesizers and other electronic keyboards, so there's the risk of shock.

Plus, at points in their shows, the marching programs can reach very fast tempos.

It's not uncommon for performers to be moving at speeds exceeding 210 steps (beats) per minute, sometimes backward.

Rain-slickened turf can lead to falls, which in a tight formation, may lead to performers falling in rapid sequence, like dominoes.

Still, in light showers, bands can make adjustments to their shows, their equipment and their apparel, which would allow them to perform.

Sprinkles are one thing.

Severe storms are another.

The dangers of lightning, hail, heavy downpours or worse, would stop the show immediately and the stadium would be evacuated.

McCready has several options.

He can delay the show and wait for the severe weather to pass.

If the delays are frequent or lengthy, finals could be canceled and placements determined by the bands' preliminary performances.

"Our hope," McCready says, "is that each band will at least get to perform once."

But, if severe storms linger, McCready would be forced to cancel the competition.

"The show is important, but not important enough to risk anyone's safety."

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