PHOENIX — While the members of the Phoenix High School marching band have donned outdated, fading uniforms for much of the past quarter century, they celebrated a victory Monday as they prepared to perform for fellow students in the high school gym.
In the culmination of two years of hard work, some 70 band members slipped into new duds Monday to debut the polished, new look to fellow students and to play a few tunes of thanks.
Named one of 15 recipients of $25,000 last October in the Pepsi "Refresh" community grant program, band members, students and parents were a driving force behind fundraising to acquire the new uniforms.
The grants were awarded based on the number of votes garnered, so everyone involved lobbied everyone within earshot to vote for the band to receive new uniforms.
Efforts to replace four-decades-old uniforms with a Pepsi "Refresh" grant began with an unsuccessful attempt in 2010 when the band came up short in the online voting.
A second round of voting produced a bigger effort and a better ranking, with the band easily being named among the 15 winning projects.
While most band uniforms have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, the school's old outfits were more than three decades old.
Drum majors Joey Larimer and Tyler Goldschmidt, both seniors, helped adjust one another's hats before leading a trio of songs for a standing-room-only crowd of students.
"Our school actually hasn't seen our uniforms yet," said Larimer, 17. "This was our first premier for our school to actually see us. The first time performed with these uniforms was not here and the (most recent) time was in California."
Each of the 70 uniforms, consisting of hat and plum, jacket, trousers and gauntlets, cost about $350.
Goldschmidt said the uniforms were a far cry from the one he wore to represent his school for the past three years.
"Nobody south of Grants Pass had seen these uniforms so we're pretty excited," he said.
"The old ones didn't look that bad from a distance but they were pretty dated and they felt like 30 pounds on your shoulders, especially when it rained."
Band director Mike DeRoest said band parents and volunteers lobbied to get the uniforms in time for homecoming, but the design and ordering process pushed back delivery to just after the football season ended.
When uniforms finally showed up last month, students could barely finish their school day.
"When they saw me wheeling the big boxes through the hallway, they were all in math or science class but they knew what the boxes were so they were all turning to try and look or wave," DeRoest said. "After school, everyone came down to the band room to check them out.
"This would have been year 34 in the old uniforms. Most uniforms are replaced after about 10 years so this was a long time coming."
Student Austin Sawchuk, a senior, said the new uniforms were impressive and "definitely a lot better."
"The old ones were from when my cousin actually graduated from our school. He graduated in 1990, and they were already kind of old to him," he said.
"This really makes it where all the voting paid off. The new uniforms probably even make them sound better, too."
Senior flute player Courtney Crawford said she was excited to spend her final year as a Phoenix Pirate in a uniform that reflected her pride in her school.
"All our hard work and the long hours just totally paid off when we got these," said the girl.
"When we first put them on, we just felt so special and so proud to wear them. We actually marched in our old uniforms for our first competition this year and it was hard to know we had these nice, new ones on the way."
DeRoest said the new uniforms will help distinguish the band from others.
With so many local schools featuring combinations of blue and red, the school's tri-color moniker should be hard to miss at future marching performances.
"They're far more distinctive. There are a lot of schools with blue and white or red and black. We wanted all three of our colors to be very pronounced," said DeRoest.
"We have the red, white and blue out in front and the gauntlets and hats are bright white. Then, with the 'P' on the chest, there won't be any mistaking that this is Phoenix."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.