Pride of Dixie prepares for homecoming performances

The Pride of Dixie marching band makes its way out on the football field for The National Anthem before the Florida Tech game Sept. 26.

While UNA’s football team prepares to play University of North Carolina-Pembroke, The Pride of Dixie marching band plans for another memorable homecoming week.

Their performances begin with the homecoming parade, and this year, the Pride of Dixie will sing the UNA Fight Song in the parade, said Director of Bands Lloyd Jones in an email.

Jones said the band has performed in the homecoming parade every year since 1949.

Performing in the parade is a major highlight for the band, said Evan Curtis, one of the band’s drum majors and a graduate student.

“The homecoming parade is great,” he said. “We love representing the university, and getting to see firsthand the support of the community is very humbling.”

As the focus of homecoming is for the UNA community to interact with alumni, Jones said, the band includes them in their homecoming festivities.

The band invites alumni to the parade, an alumni meal and the next game, Jones said. He said the Pride of Dixie also hosts a casual alumni reunion after the parade.

Tyler Gean, a 2013 UNA graduate and Pride of Dixie alumnus, said he always tries to participate in the group’s activities because of the affect being a member had on his life.

“When you invest your whole self into an organization such as the POD, it becomes a part of you,” he said. “You find yourself wanting to strive for perfection in everything you do.”

The band also has the opportunity during tailgating to perform at an alumni pavilion, Curtis said.

“It gives us a great opportunity to connect with them and show them our gratitude for paving the way for what we are doing now,” he said.

The band’s performances move on to the pregame show, where members play the background music for the homecoming court and the announcement of the king and queen, he said.

After that, they participate in the Lion Walk, where the football team enters the stadium, Curtis said.

Then, the members make their way to the field for the halftime show, and he said they have a special show tradition.

“We have a tune we play exclusively for homecoming called ‘Wave,’” he said. “We’ve been doing it for years, so it’s not necessarily new, but it’s a tradition. It’s fun for the group to play.”

The homecoming halftime show will also be the first time the band plays the entire show for the home crowd this season, he said.

In addition to “Wave,” the band plays fanfares and the fight song, Jones said.

Junior percussionist Lily Mitchell said performing for the homecoming crowd is her favorite part of the festivities.

“There are a lot of alumni and a lot more students present, so I think playing for the huge number of people is really exciting.”

Alex Benson, a transfer junior, said he has been a fan of the Pride of Dixie performances since high school.

“They were doing an exhibition performance at a high school competition, and they were performing Malagueña that year,” he said. “I remember them turning around during that song, and (I was) hit with an amazing wall of sound. I honestly loved every second of it.”

Benson said he drove to Birmingham when UNA played Miles earlier this season just to hear the band, and he is looking forward to seeing their homecoming performance.

All in all, entertaining the community and alumni is an honor, Jones said.

“The students and staff, as well as myself, enjoy performing the halftime show for the alumni who have returned to campus,” he said. “Many alumni only attend one game during the season, and many tell us the band’s show is the highlight of their weekend.”