Late afternoon Friday the skies began turning gray, and rain threatened the Miami Valley. Just as Jose was leaving to report to the band room, the splotches of wetness began appearing on the sidewalk. Within minutes the deluge had begun. At 6:30pm, the rain had stopped and I stepped into the heavy, steamy air to walk to the high school to take photos of STEP-OFF.

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STEP-OFF is one of my favorite traditions to observe with a Fairmont football game. The marching band and guard assembles in front of the school (actually, the performing arts’ wing) and begins the march over to the stadium, winding down Delaine through approximately five blocks of the neighborhood. When the band reaches the opposite side of the school, students and adults who are tailgating before the game, fall in behind the band. Home owners along Delaine are often hosting cookouts, or just standing on their porches, in their yards, to cheer on the Marching Firebirds. As the band moves beneath the rich, overhang of leaves, the too bright stadium’s lights begin filtering through the specks of openings in the green arch. The excitement always mounts as each section of the band, accompanied by the funky rhythms of the percussion, begins a choreographed movement with their instruments – the best being the sousaphones! Once the band arrives at the stadium there is an even greater sense of excitement when the 204 members march through the tunnel beneath the gigantic stadium, drums pounding harder, and louder, creating a fantastic vibration on the seats above. It is a wonderful tradition that I enjoy each home game.

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I took photos as the band started STEP-OFF, and then hurried over to the corner of Lincoln Park Blvd. & Delaine to catch them as they made their first turn into the neighborhood. After the band passed, I walked over to Lincoln Park and the Fraze Pavilion to take photographs. As I walked the park it occurred to me that the recorded music heard floating over the neighborhood from the stadium was not yielding to the band’s pre-game music. I later learned the game’s start had been held due to lightning.

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Jose arrived home, chattering away about the events of the night, and then the deluge began, again… and the rains came… forty days and forty nights…

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