The Band Festival


High school musicians warm up in the 400 block of 4th Avenue during
the 1947 West Virginia High School Band Festival.


HUNTINGTON ó A native of Caldwell, Ohio, Henry Shadwell attended the Ohio State
 University and later earned bachelorís and masterís degrees in music from Capitol
 College of Music in Columbus, Ohio. In 1918, he was hired to teach
 science at Huntingtonís Central Junior High School.

His love of music prompted him to teach music after hours. He began
urging the school board to offer music as a course and in 1924
became director of the first Huntington High School band.

One day in 1935, Shadwell invited two other West Virginia band directors,
 Charles Gorby of South Charleston and Carl McElfresh of Logan, to his
 home. As the three talked, they came up with a plan to bring many of the
 stateís high school bands together for a big weekend. They envisioned
that the bands would first be judged for their concert skills and then
 join in a big street parade, followed by a program of intricate
stadium maneuvers. The three decided that Huntington, with
its broad streets, would be the perfect spot for the event.

And thatís how a long-time Huntington tradition, the West Virginia Band
 Festival Parade, was born. The first festival took place in 1936.
Things started out modestly enough, but the ensuing years saw
the event grow to monster-sized proportions. By the late
1950s, the annual festival drew nearly 100 bands.

Many visiting bands would stage their own impromptu marches at various
 times during the festival. On Saturday morning, all the bands would
 join in a seemingly endless parade that always
drew a crowd of thousands.

The bands would form up at the Marshall campus, move down 4th Avenue
to 8th Street, then on to Fairfield Stadium to perform. During the
 festival, many Huntington families lodged out-of-town
 band members free of charge.

Ultimately the Band Festival proved a victim of its own success. It had
grown so large that no one city could handle it. So the state was cut
into regions, with four smaller events conducted in various cities.
And Huntingtonís big parade became a well-loved memory.


Note:  This Article and picture appeared in the Herald-Dispatch Newspaper on Apr. 21, 2020.


[ Back ]