Photo by Jordan Hays.
Sparks in the Park
Students in the Spain Park High School marching band practice for Sparks in the Park and other marching competitions.
High school marching bands from across the state will compete with the performances that have become synonymous with football halftime.
Spain Park High School will hold its fourth annual Sparks in the Park Marching Contest on September 26 at Jaguar Stadium. The time of the event will be announced once registration is complete.
Sparks in the Park was originally a Drum Corps International competition, but it was dropped as the competition was not as financially effective as the school had hoped.
Several years later, Spain Park High School band director Chris Neugent gave Sparks in the Park “a second life.” The competition went from being a summer drum corps event to a fall high school marching band event.
Neugent said the competition functions as a community service by providing another platform for high school marching bands to compete.
“If you look through the Birmingham metro area, there are very few marching band contests that are hosted in this area,” Neugent said. “Hoover High School hosts the Hoover Marching Invitational ... Other than that contest, there were no other contests in the Birmingham metro area for high school marching bands.”
The competition will host bands from across Alabama, but Neugent said the competition has grown over its four-year lifespan. In previous years, the competition has hosted bands from Georgia, and Spain Park markets to schools in Mississippi, Tennessee and Florida to participate.
The competition will also feature performances from the University of Montevallo’s jazz band, Troy University’s Sound of the South Marching Band and the University of Alabama Birmingham’s Marching Blazers.
“Sparks in the Park is one of the best-attended high school marching band competitions in the state of Alabama, in terms of the caliber of bands that are attracted to perform there,” said Sue Samuels, UAB’s director of bands. “It always has a great crowd that’s very welcoming and enthusiastic.”
The Marching Blazers are a marching band without a football team, something Samuels said is unheard of in the South. Without games to perform at, Sparks in the Park provides an opportunity for the Marching Blazers to perform.
“We still want to have a great college marching band experience for our students,” Samuels said. “So having the opportunity to perform at Sparks in the Park gives our students a chance to perform for their friends and family, and it gives high school students in the metro Birmingham area the opportunity to see the UAB Marching Blazers, so that hopefully they’ll aspire to be part of that band someday.”
Sparks in the Park also functions as a fundraiser for the Spain Park band. With the funds raised from previous events, the school was able to recently unveil a brand new uniform for their marching band.
“You could not ask for a better layout for a high school marching band contest,” Neugent said. “The stadium is gorgeous and the facility is awesome. The space around the place is perfect for an event like this.”
Parking is free and admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students 6 and older and free for children 5 and younger.
For more information about Sparks in the Park, visit spainparkband.org/events/sparks-in-the-park.
Sparks in the Park Marching Fest
- Sept. 26, Time TBA
- Jaguar Stadium, 4700 Jaguar Drive
- Admission: $8 adults, $5 students, children 5 and under are free