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Battle of the bands back in Merced

Clarinets, cymbals and tubas will resound in Merced once again as the Central California Band Review is welcomed back Saturday after a three-year exile in Madera.

Thirty-four middle school and high school bands from as far away as Oroville, San Jose and Santa Cruz are expected to take part in the traditional parade and band competition, held for the first time at Golden Valley High School at East Childs and Parsons avenues.

Ken Harris, president of the Golden Valley Band Boosters Association, said all parts of the Merced community are behind the band review, which started in Merced 47 years ago.

"I have a really good feeling about this," Harris said. "I'm very pleased. There is a lot of community support. It should be a good band review. Everybody wants to see it succeed."

Lee Pevsner, Golden Valley treasurer and fundraising chairman, said the jazz competition featuring 13 schools starts at 8:30 a.m. in the GV theater. The parade starts at 9 a.m., running along Childs Avenue in front of the school. The field show will be held Saturday night in Atwater.

"There has been a lot of hard work with the band review. It's going to be tremendously successful," Pevsner said.

People living near Golden Valley also are welcoming the event, even if it means some traffic inconveniences Saturday morning.

Joel Knox, president of the Golden Valley Neighborhood Association, knows there will be logistical issues with the band review but said everybody's up for it.

While some have guessed 2,500 spectators will watch the band review, some figure that's a conservative estimate. At 150 people per school and 34 bands participating, that works out to 5,100 attending the event, Knox said.

"We are happy to be able to have an event like this in our part of the city," Knox said.

Kathee Baba, the Golden Valley band booster member in charge of procuring trophies for the band review, is equally ecstatic about the band review's return to Merced.

"I am so thrilled it's back in Merced. It started here and just needs to be here. We're looking forward to it; I can't wait for Saturday," Baba said.

Greg Christiansen, Golden Valley High School band director, said people are going to enjoy this year's band review and want it to come back in future years. He said parent groups at Golden Valley and Atwater high schools have worked hard to promote the event.

The Golden Valley band, the host unit, isn't competing in parade or jazz competition. Christiansen said the GV band will be playing an early 1900s song composed by Winson called "Carry On" when they strike off Saturday morning on Childs Avenue.

Madera, which hosted 2004-2006 band reviews, isn't competing in Merced this year. Madera is having its own field show Saturday night, using a different judging circuit, Christiansen said.

Lisa Battisti, the Atwater Falcon band booster president, said gates open for the field show at 5 p.m. and the event begins at 5:30 p.m. Born and raised in Merced, she said she grew up with the band review, which began in 1960 as a veterans' parade.

Battisti said Atwater hosted the field show years ago and she's glad it's coming back to Falcon Field. Twelve bands are entered in field show competition.

"The response from Atwater is people are thrilled it's back. We hope next year to double the number of bands. It's not the Central California Band Review without being in Merced. Let's hope it stays here for years to come," Battisti said.

Lt. Bimley West of the Merced Police Department will be the reviewing officer for the band review. He said it's nice to have the band review back in Merced and said the event was good for the community.

Atwater, Buhach Colony, Merced, Chowchilla, Dos Palos, Gustine and Livingston high schools will be competing. Out-of-area high schools from San Jose, Stockton, Clovis, Visalia, Oroville, Livermore, Lodi, Sacramento, Oakdale, Newman, Riverbank, Roseville, Hollister, San Ramon, Santa Cruz, Lodi, Turlock, Santa Cruz and Fresno also will be competing.

Middle schools in Dos Palos, Merced, Escalon, Livingston, Los Banos, San Jose, Chowchilla, Winton and Newman also will be participating.

In past years, the band review was held in downtown Merced. The Northern California Band Association, which supplies judges and other officials, asked Merced to take the event back, Pevsner said.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209-385-2485 or