INDIANAPOLIS — Savannah Allen paused for a moment before bringing her trumpet to her lips.
Standing on the dirt track in the grandstand at the Indiana State Fair, surrounded by her bandmates, she looked out toward the crowd and smiled, music blasting around her on all sides.
Nothing could have kept her from this moment.
For member of Eastern Hancock High School’s marching band, Band Day at the state fair is their pinnacle performance. Saturday, they took the track at the fairgrounds in Indianapolis for their only competition.
Their pride and excitement was palpable. This was the culmination of a summer of hard work.
Allen, a senior and a trumpet section leader, was among them despite having suffered injuries in two separate car accidents that might have kept a less-dedicated student from Saturday’s performance.
Days before Eastern Hancock’s band camp at the end of July, where these young musicians participate in long practices to prepare for the state fair, Allen was involved in a pair of wrecks that left her with minor injuries, including a painful bump on the head and a bruise to the bone of her elbow.
But Allen wasn’t willing to let the accidents ruin her senior season, Eastern Hancock director Dan Buckalew said.
The teen has devoted time to honing her craft since sixth grade, and during the past four years of high school, she’s played an important role in the marching band. Her dedication to her music shone through her pain as she healed from her injuries. She didn’t miss a single practice, the director said.
“She came in the first day with an elbow guard and she would not leave the field,” Buckalew said. “She’s just tough.”
In the first crash Allen was involved in, a semi-truck struck her car as she merged onto Interstate 70. Just days later, she was struck again when another driver ran a stop sign, sending her car spinning into a telephone pole. Allen suffered a bone bruise to her arm — an essential tool in trumpet-playing — and breathed in fumes from a deployed air bag. She’s continuing to deal with the emotional and mental effects of two accidents in such a short time.
But those injuries will heal in time, Allen knows, and she returned to her band practices ready to make the best of a bad situation. Many schools dedicate months of their summer and fall to competitions; but at Eastern Hancock, there’s one week of band camp and the state fair show before the season is over. Allen said she wasn’t going to let the wrecks ruin what she’d worked so hard for.
“Band is everything to me,” she said. “It’s my last year marching, and marching season is my favorite time of year.”
She felt it was her duty to set a good example for underclassmen. No matter what, it’s important to be there for one another and give your all, she said.
“You have to persevere and you have to have determination to show up at practice every day,” Allen said. “State fair was a week away, I didn’t have time to take off and not learn my sets and music. I just couldn’t afford it.”
In the final track competition of her career, Allen and her bandmates gave it their all as they performed their show, Appalachian Spring, Buckalew said.
Although the group didn’t advance to the day’s final competition, when 16 groups move on to compete for the top prize, Buckalew had nothing but praise for his students, who placed 32nd of nearly 50 bands from across the state.
“They’ve done a great job getting ready,” he said. “We started in mid-July with the music and we put the drill onto the field last week at band camp. They’ve come a long way in just two weeks.”
Saturday was the first time the band chose classical music for its show in Buckalew’s nine-year career with the Royals. Typically, the band chooses classic rock, but this year, he wanted them to be exposed to a classical piece.
“Their marching technique looked excellent to me,” he said following the students’ performance. “They were putting out some sound, so I was very pleased with it.”
The number of students who participate in Eastern Hancock’s marching band has doubled to 48 since Buckalew took over nearly a decade ago.
Even though the band lost a number of seniors after last school year, the new crop of freshmen came in ready and eager to learn, Buckalew said
This season may be over, but band members and leaders say they’re excited about the future.
“We’ve gotten consistently better every year we’ve been down here,” Buckalew said.
Buckalew is an amazing band director, Allen said. He’s slowly built a program that now plans to performs at the state fair every year following a more than 25-year hiatus from 1987 to 2014.
“It’s exciting because I hope that one day this band will go on the circuit and be a big band, one that everyone knows about,” Allen said.
The Indiana State Fair runs now through Aug. 20. Below is a list of events you can’t miss!
7:30 p.m.: An evening with Montgomery Gentry at the Chevrolet Silverado Free Stage
7 p.m.: The Midwest Superstars at the Dance Stage
7:30 p.m.: Blue October at the Chevrolet Silverado Free Stage
10 a.m.: Cheerleading competition preliminaries at the Hoosier Lottery Grand Stand
4:30 p.m.: Introduction of Royalty: County Fair Queens at the Indiana Arts Building
For a full schedule, visit indianastatefair.com/state-fair/