With numerous forest fires currently ablaze in Southern Oregon, outdoor school programs in the Grants Pass area have been scrambling to find new meeting spaces away from all the smoke. One of the programs is the Grants Pass High School Marching Band who has moved its summer training camp to the Umpqua Community College campus in Roseburg.
“The smoke has been down here for about a month, so we kind of anticipated there being problems,” said Jason Garcia, the school’s band director. “Everyone down here, every athletic program is trying to search for an area where it’s safe for the kids to practice.”
For four weeks the band reached out to locations within the area. Garcia contacted schools in Roseburg, Springfield and on the coast, but had trouble locking anything down, he said.
“We were even looking at airplane hangers, trying to be creative to find an indoor facility where we could practice,” he said. “And we just started working our way up the freeway in terms of phone calls.”
Winston Middle School was one of a few places that were available, but the band decided to go with UCC due to the college’s abundance of field space.
The band contacted and made the reservation with UCC last week to use the field inside the track at starting Tuesday and going until August 25, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., UCC Athletic Director Craig Jackson said.
Jackson said the visiting band has had to practice on other locations away from their school in the past, but this is the first time they’re using the UCC campus.
“All those outdoor programs, from Grants Pass down, don’t have any place to practice because they can’t get outside because of the smoke,” Jackson said. “For us, anytime we have some facilities that are open and somebody needs to use them, especially in a situation like theirs, we’re excited to be able to provide that for them.”
The band started its three-week summer training camp at the start of last week. The first week of training is dedicated to percussion ensemble and the color guard, groups that are small enough to practice indoors at various middle and elementary schools within the Grants Pass area. The last two weeks of training will include all 243 band members who will rehearse their marches in Roseburg.
To help the band rehearse, the field will be spray painted to resemble a football field. Garcia said the band plans to travel back and forth every day from Grants Pass to UCC starting Wednesday — a two-and-a-half-hour round trip drive.
“We have a plan,” Garcia said. “It’s about the best we can do with the situation the way it is.”
The marching band will be in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City in November. The last time they made an appearance in the parade was 2010. Garcia said the band is very thankful for everyone who has been willing to help out.
“It’s not easy to open your doors to strangers and a bunch of teenagers,” he said. “So the fact that everyone out there has been doing their best to accommodate us has been super nice and I’m really appreciative of it.”