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The New York Mills band uniforms have seen almost two decades. The Bandwagon is trying to raise money to purchase new uniforms.

NY Mills band raises funds for new duds

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Students in the New York Mills Marching Band spend countless hours perfecting their performances, attending marching workshops and music clinics, and giving up many summer mornings to parade up and down the streets.

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To help the band look as good as they sound, NY Mills band director Blake Groe and others in the community are raising $100,000 to replace old uniforms and outdated equipment.

Replacing the uniforms

After 18 years of being tucked and trimmed to fit various students' shapes, the current uniforms are losing their ability to be altered.

The current uniform pants, which are held up by suspenders, are shortened or lengthened each year by a simple adjustment of the hem. Over time, because of the material fraying, the pants have become permanently short - sometimes too short.

The current jackets, faded but otherwise in good shape, are too hot for marching in the summer sun.

At every parade, EMTs are on hand to help any kids having trouble with heat-related illnesses like heatstroke.

With student safety in mind, uniform companies have come a long way over the last couple decades. Uniforms are now made with lighter, more breathable material that still lasts 20 years.

The band has been considering new uniforms for three years, but has put off the large purchase because of the expense.

Each uniform costs $400 to $450, and the school needs 100 uniforms.

The uniform company recommends schools order 25 percent more uniforms than students in order to ensure a wide variety of sizes are in stock.

The purchase has been moved forward in light of a July 4 trip to Washington, D.C. The band will be marching in the national Independence Day parade this summer.

Students are working individually to earn their own funds to go to D.C., and the band as a group is raising money to make sure band members are outfitted correctly.

The new uniforms

The uniform design is still in the making. The process started with 20 sketches by designer Brent Becker from Stanbury Uniforms.

Twenty uniforms have been narrowed down to three over the past few months.

Groe said choices were narrowed down by picking a design that would look good for a long time and was not based on the latest fashion statement.

A committee of students, teachers and administration is being put together to decide on the final design.

A mock uniform of the final design is hoped to be unveiled at the band's concert on Jan. 14 with the Minnesota State University, Mankato Wind Ensemble

Replacing the equipment

Groe said some new equipment is necessary, too.

The harnesses that hold drums on the percussionists are about 20 years old. The bolts and nuts that adjust the harnesses are wearing out, making it harder to get a correct fit.

New harnesses that are available have bigger belly plates, which in turn offer more support and help distribute the weight of the 15- to 30-pound drums to a greater group of muscles, which then cuts down on back and hip problems.

The new harnesses and drums are estimated to cost between $10,000 and $15,000.

Other equipment needs to be replaced of fixed for an estimated $55,000. To put that in perspective, a single tuba can cost $5,000, depending on the make and size.

Community Support

A variety of fundraisers are in the works to earn the $100,000 to get the band properly outfitted by this summer.

Many area businesses have donated generous sums, and in return their business names or logos are endorsed on the band trailer.

On Jan. 14, raffle items will be announced. A 16-foot Lund boat and many other large items will be in the drawing. A raffle ticket will cost $10 and a limited amount will be sold.

The band is also doing a unique fundraiser with SendOutCards, an online card service. For every new member that signs up under the band's website, the band receives $3. For more information, go to www.sendoutcards.com/nymband.

"I tell the kids all the time that the reason we are still here is because of community support," said Groe. "Our community has stepped up to the plate, and we appreciate it."

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