Friday Night Series: The full experience

3180
Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune | The Parkway High School color guard plays a vital role in the Pride of Pantherland's halftime show, “Coming Home.” The 50 member guard uses synchronized flag work, rifles and dance to tell the story of a soldier's journey before and after war.

Color guard, feature twirler give spectators a show

When Parkway senior Kristina Welch takes the field at halftime, she wants the audience to have a full sensory experience.

“Our show is almost like a book – the band is writing the words and we’re acting out the pictures,” she said.

Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune | Jayde Barnett performs with the Parkway HS color guard.
Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune | Jayde Barnett performs with the Parkway HS color guard.

Welch is captain of the color guard for the Pride of Pantherland Marching Band. The 50 member guard plays a vital role in their show, “Coming Home.” Their goal is to connect with the crowd and make them feel something.

Although they don’t use words, the choreographed routines combine with the instrumental tunes to create magic when the band takes the field. “Coming Home” is the journey of a soldier’s life, Welch said.

“…going from a normal life to being drafted and going to war…then the sadness that comes from death and life after,” she explained. “It’s all about being in character and believing the character you play. We are the storytellers.”

The color guard interprets that story with synchronized flag work, rifles and dance. Justin Gremillion is in his eighth year as color guard instructor at Parkway. He said this year’s show is definitely a character driven show and the guard plays many roles on the field.

“They are the ones left at home and the soldiers who go off to war,” he explained. “You see the intensity during the heated battle then the sadness that comes from death.”

Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune | The Parkway HS color guard utilizes a variety of performance tools during their halftime show.
Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune | The Parkway HS color guard utilizes a variety of performance tools during their halftime show.

With such a large number to work with, Gremillion says their group brings a dramatic element to the field. A big part of the visual program is when the flags pop up in sync with the first burst of sound from the band, which he called the show’s opening statement.

Students in the band and color guard rehearse during school, after school and on weekends. Welch said she can’t even add up the amount of hours the group has put into rehearsals so far this year. It all began this summer when they worked 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. most days on learning routines, marching drills and bonding as a group. Now they practice every day after school for three hours. Welch said it’s a “crazy amount of work, but so worth it.”

Adding some flair to the Viking Vanguard Band is Keriann Hollis. The Airline

Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune | Keriann Hollis performs two-baton tricks during halftime of the Airline vs. Southwood game. The Airline freshman has been twirling for 11 years and has won national titles with the Dixie Diamonds of Shreveport.
Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune | Keriann Hollis performs two-baton tricks during halftime of the Airline vs. Southwood game.

freshman has taken the field for the first time as the school’s feature twirler this year.

Hollis, 14, began twirling at the age of three with the award winning Dixie Diamonds in Shreveport. She had an exciting summer with the group, winning two first place awards with team routines and a fourth place finish in two batons at a national competition.

“It’s fun,” Hollis said.

Although she doesn’t perform in the band’s competition show, Hollis still wows the crowd with rolls, spins and two baton work. On top of band practice, she has group practice weekly with the Dixie Diamonds.

Though the days are long, the effort is worth it. Hollis hopes to be on the field all four years of high school as the feature twirler. She’s working hard to add new skills to her performances, even adding a third baton to her trick series.

“This is definitely a sport,” Hollis said. “It’s certainly hard enough to be one.”