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Alumni Band, 200 + strong, and Syrupmaker Band wowed the crowd

The Voice of the Syrupmakers, Michael Best, predicted that “Football Friday,” Oct. 8, would be a “Night to Remember” in his sport’s column last week. Best, however, was not forecasting the outcome of the Syrupmaker’s dual with the Dougherty Trojans. In fact, the ‘Makers were well in control of the outcome by half time.
Best was anticipating the wave of emotion that would blanket the large Syrupmaker fan base during pre-game festivities and later during the half time show. Prior to opening kickoff, members of the 1990 state champion football team and cheerleading squad would file onto the field to be recognized and later, during the half time show, fans would hear the band’s trademark, “Battle Hymn,” with the addition of 200-plus former Syrupmaker band members.
Best predicted, ”The band reunion will be amazing.” And he was right on target.
It was “amazing, awesome, wonderful,” but words, according to onlookers and the band members themselves, could not adequately describe the emotion that swept over the field that night.
“The whole night far exceeded my expectations. Words cannot describe 200-plus alumni and 200 current CHS Band members on one field playing together,” said former band member Martha Hester Prince (1984).  “We had alumni travel from as far as Arizona, Texas and Key Largo, Fla., just to participate in this event.”
Joining current CHS Band Director Johnny Folsom on the field were former Syrupmaker band directors, Sandy Campbell, Jack Willis and Joe David. Tommy Verran, representing his late father and Cairo’s first band director, Major Verran, also greeted the crowd from the sidelines. Former drum majors and majorettes didn’t miss a beat adding to the spirited performance.
“Current Band Director Johnny Folsom, along with past directors Sandy Campbell, Jack Willis and Joe David have touched lives and taught us things we still live by today,” said alumni band member Prince. “The attendance of this event by their past students is testimony to this.”
Retired Syrupmaker Band Director Joe David also found it hard to translate the night’s festivities into words, and commented, “words such as  ‘awesome, amazing, wonderful,’ cannot adequately describe what I felt in my heart at the Cairo High School Syrupmaker Alumni Band event. Thank you so much to the committee (Martha Prince, Connie Rykard, and Wanda Fowler), to the Syrupmaker band members and their directors, and to all others involved.
“Your dedication and hard work made this past weekend a tremendous success. I was so humbled by your many kind words. It was great to see so many former students and old friends. I saw in you the same great attitudes, strong character and sweet personalities that make all of you such outstanding individuals. I was truly blessed and privileged to have served for 20 years as a band director in such a great place with such special, amazing people.
“I was truly in the right place, at the right time…God Bless You All,” said Mr. David.
“I can vividly remember playing ‘Battle Hymn’ during halftime at the last football game of my senior year and thinking I need to remember this moment, because I will never be able to do this again. Thanks to your efforts, we were all able to have that experience one more time. Some former alumni were able to participate with their children who were alumni themselves or current band members,” noted Tia Rawlins White (1984).
“I thoroughly enjoyed returning to Cairo High School and participating in the alumni band festivities. I have been telling all my friends around the state that, ‘In Cairo, they do it right.’ I was a member of the first integrated band in the fall of 1970. Being a band director myself, I have carried the Cairo tradition for bands with me throughout my career. Seeing Mr. Willis, was the highlight of my participation. I consider him a mentor, and the strongest influence on me personally as a band director,” said Wayne King (1973).
Debra Brown Stokes (1977), remarked,  “It was an awesome experience and I really enjoyed seeing friends from my high school days.”
After the successful band reunion on Friday night, can the public look forward to another blockbuster performance from this newly formed group, or will the alumni band slowly fade away and “enjoy the moment?”
According to alumni band organizers, the band is just warming up. “We will build upon this (performance),” said Prince. “We are going to organize a committee to keep the alumni band going so as functions come up, we will be ready to go.”
With more than 200 members strong, look for the alumni band to continue to grow and dazzle the public with its energy, and of course, it’s “Syrupmaker Pride.”
Prince added, “With the changes and uncertainties in the world today it is a comfort to know the traditions of the Syrupmaker Band will never change. For those 10 minutes on the football field Friday night for 400 band students, ‘all was right with the world.’ I would like to thank all the current CHS students for allowing us to be a part of them one more time. Also I would like to thank directors, Johnny Folsom, Michael Thomas, Pat Ballew, Brad Moore and Amy Amaro for their support and hard work to make this happen.”

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