“We tell our band members to wear dark clothing underneath their uniforms, just in case something gives go, so people won’t see red hearts on their boxers,” said Band Booster Frances Streff at the last Pulaski County School Board meeting.
Streff, who has traveled with the band as an emergency seamstress, and Band Booster President Scott Robertson-Gouge presented their information before the school board, asking for assistance and declaring that the band’s uniforms, which are made of a polywool blend and over 10 years old, need to be replaced.
“We feel that it is very crucial to get assistance with buying new uniforms,” Streff said. “I know we had an issue with bibs splitting last year during competition, not along the seams where they can be repaired, but in the material. And most of the seams are so threadbare they can’t be restitched.”
Streff detailed many irreparable problems the uniforms have, including creases and shiny spots that are the result of having instruments resting and rubbing against them over the years, gold lame flaking off the bibs, holes in the front of uniforms that cannot be covered up, gold flake wearing off at the rims of shakos, and having broken straps and missing inside strings to adjust them for different head sizes. She described the uniforms as “falling apart.”
“It’s a constant struggle to keep these in performance order, just from the constant wear and tear of 10 years,” said Streff, who outlined another problem: smell. “They need to be dry cleaned. Ten loving years of blood, sweat and tears that these kids have put into their performances, it doesn’t come out anymore,” she said. “Even after they come back from the dry cleaners, after 10 years, you can tell that they’ve been well-worn and well-loved.”
Whatever the conditions of their uniforms, Streff had nothing but praise for the band members themselves. “The kids have been wonderful,” she said. “They’ve been out in the snow and the rain and the heat. The students have done exceptionally well. They’re wonderful musicians, they’re dedicated.”
As for the feasibility of paying for new uniforms, Gouge said that under the old band director, the students took one major trip every four years, but under new director Daniel Wilner, two every four years was the new norm. He indicated that the band budget was going towards the trips, which already required fundraising. The last two trips, to Florida and Washington DC, cost $40,000 and $65,000. A new equipment truck for instruments required $8,000 in fundraising.
“If the same things hold with Mr. Wilner, we will be fundraising for a trip, possibly to New York, for the spring of 2015,” he said. “However, at this point, we have just short of $7,000 in a CD, marked for uniforms. Now, up to this point in the last two years, we have not been able to do fundraising specifically for the uniforms.”
Gouge said the band boosters had conceived of two possible avenues for raising uniform funds. The first would be contacting band alumni for donations and placing their names on a plaque that would hang at the entrance of the band’s section of the stadium; the second would be a car raffle for Shelor Motor Mile, which would allow students to keep all the money raised.
“We do not have a cost for uniforms, and we just wanted to make this presentation, and hopefully come back soon,” said Gouge, “but we do have a design that has been submitted to three different companies to have bids placed. This is a design that Mr. Wilner came up with. We hope to have some bids and samples for them in the next couple of weeks.”
Gouge said that according to Wilner, it normally takes 120-180 days to get uniforms after an order is placed, so they would need to be ordered by March 1 to be ready for next season. He added that a deposit would be needed, but full payment would not come due until the uniforms are ready.
“We hope that in January or February that we can come back and present to you how much we’ve been able to raise, how much the total cost will be, and a figure that we would be looking at as the total cost,” Gouge said.
Streff got the last word. “On the side of the music trailer it says ‘The Pride of Pulaski County’ and that’s not just a play on ‘Cougar Pride.’ They represent the county well. I think they really do deserve uniforms that reflect their abilities and their dedication to this program. It’s the pride of Pulaski County, and we need to show a little pride, too.”