ELDERSBURG - Sporting a bright new look, the Liberty High School Marching Band will be roaring into Georgia and playing through to Florida this month.
The Lions will cap their most successful season in 10 years with an appearance at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta Dec. 29, where Auburn plays Indiana University, and will spend New Year's Eve parading down DisneyWorld's Main Street, in Orlando.
With seven division wins under their belts, including best music and percussion in every show, band members said they are all proud to wear the lion's head on the sleeve of their new uniforms.
The band's success was partially responsible for some innovations Stephen W. Miles made in the overall look of the marchers he has directed since 1986. He opted to switch from dark blue and mustard gold to blue, white and bright yellow.
"The band is marching really well, and it shows better with the white pants and shoes" said Miles. "In the darker colors, you can't really tell just how well they are moving."
In anticipation of the arrival of the new outfits, the students switched to white shoes and rakish blue Aussie-style "cowboy" hats at the beginning of the season. Just after Thanksgiving, the transition became complete, as the Lions took delivery of 80 band and 24 guard uniforms. Miles said the students were anxious to try on the new look.
"The change from blue to white really improves our appearance and give us all a more professional look and attitude," said Jason Chapple, a junior.
Troy Gourley, another junior, remembers when the company for the movie "Cry Baby" asked several band members to be in the film because the '50s look of the uniforms fit so well into the story line. Acting in the uniforms was fun, he added, but marching often wasn't.
"The water buffalo hats and jacket overlays were outdated and uncomfortable," said Troy. "The new uniforms are thinner, more flexible and easier to march in."
The students said their new Santa Clara-style jackets, patterned after those worn by a popular California band, makes them unique among county bands.
While the students practiced the patriotic and show tunes selected for the pre-game and half-time shows, a committee of parents fit and measured the new outfits, making any necessary alterations. Everybody will show off the stylish uniforms when the band performs for the first time in the change of colors, at the school's Christmas assembly Dec. 18.
Miles credits the LHS Band Boosters, a group of parents and friends, for raising the money that made the uniforms and the Georgia trip a reality.
"The community has been supportive of all our fund-raising efforts, even in these financially bad times," he said.
The total bill for the uniforms was about $24,000, he said, with the Board of Education kicking in $9,000.
Miles called the boosters "fiscally responsible" for setting uniform money aside every year. Dennis Beard, the boosters'45-year-old president, said the group had about $19,000 saved. The surplus money helped pay for an extra pair of pants for each marcher and for the guard outfits.
The trip is a different story. Beard said the boosters still are about $3,000 shy of the $50,000 needed and will continue raising money into next year. All systems are go, he said, because the band really has earned the trip.
"It's unreal how far the band has come," said Beard, who has been involved with the band for 10 years. "I never thought a Carroll County band could be this successful."
Beard, whose daughter, Stephanie, is the guard captain, will be among the 16 adults accompanying the students as they head south on Dec. 26.
"I'll be spending New Year's Eve with 72 kids, and I couldn't be in any better company," Beard said.