Autumn Classic celebrating 40 years of performance

The 2018 Bradford Marching Owls perform a three-movement production called “Reflexíon Latina” during the 39th annual Autumn Classic marching band competition in Bradford’s Parkway Field. The 40th annual competition will take the field on Saturday.

The annual Autumn Classic band competition at Bradford Area High School is a time-honored tradition. In fact, four decades of tradition will be celebrated at the event, to be held Saturday.

Parkway Field will open at 3 p.m. Saturday, with the opening ceremony to begin at 4:15 p.m.

Organizers will be celebrating the event’s 40th anniversary, but how?

“We have some surprises up our sleeve — you’ll have to join us to see!” said Marissa Golden, director of instrumental music for Bradford Area High School.

At 7:30 p.m., Bradford’s Marching Owls will take the field to showcase their 2019 production of “PRISM,” said Golden.

“It was designed by one of our assistant directors, Mr. John Golden,” she said. “The idea is to show white light as it enters a prism, refracts, and creates the rainbow lights you see on sunny days.”

The theme is represented through the four tunes featured in the show: “Prism,” “Hymn of Acxiom,” “Spectrum” and “Over the Rainbow.”

“After Mr. Golden came up with the show idea, we looked for music that would portray his ideas,” Marissa Golden explained. “Our music was arranged by Alex Thode. Our drill designer this year is Shawn Campopiano.”

It is the students who will bring “PRISM” to life.

“Our color guard represents the light throughout the show, where the band forms multiple ‘prism shaped-forms for the color guard to interact with,” said Golden. “The color guard will be dressed in white and will have some special additions to their uniforms throughout the show.”

Parents played an important role in creating “PRISM,” too.

“Our props were designed by our amazing booster club,” Golden said. “These parents worked so hard to create front panels to see the stage, five rotating triangle prisms, and our guard props.”

This year’s group of Bradford Marching Owls comprises 55 students in grades 8-12 who perform as musicians and color guard members, along with five “prop kids” from the band program at Floyd C. Fretz Middle School who help all season.

This year’s drum major is Spencer Whittemore.

Golden said the boosters facilitate the entire event — a process which takes months to organize. They will be hard at work on Saturday, too.

“Our Autumn Classic Chair, Misty Rettger, begins organizing nearly a year before the event with the help of boosters and the Marching Owls staff,” Golden explained “The boosters will be running both concession stands, selling candy grams, basket raffles, 50/50 tickets, baked goods, booster wear, and programs.”

A dozen high school marching bands are slated to perform: Cochranton, Cameron County, McDowell, Iroquois, Otto-Eldred/Oswayo Valley, Port Allegany, Seneca, Coudersport, Sheffield, Corry, Union City and Bradford.

Also, attendees will hear a performance by the Mercyhurst University marching band and watch performances by dancers from Studio B Dance Academy and the Bradford Area Dance Academy. The Bradford Area High School choir, under the direction of Andrew Dutko, will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the Bradford High alma mater.

The event will conclude with the awards ceremony, which will begin at 8 p.m. People can see the full schedule at

Presale tickets can be found at Wright’s Music Shed and Ott & McHenry Pharmacy on Main Street for $4 per student or senior or $6 per adult.

The Autumn Classic is just one performance of many for the Bradford musicians.

The Bradford Marching Owls have already showcased their routine at General McLane and McDowell, and they have competition performances yet to come at Girard, Harbor Creek and the LMBA Championships in Erie. They will perform at parades for homecoming, Christmas and Memorial Day in Bradford, too.

Golden said the competition is possible only with the support of sponsors.

“Autumn Classic has brought music to the hills of Bradford for 40 years,” she said. “I am eternally thankful for the outpouring of help we receive to put this event on.”