The Chieftains of Bellevue East High School left their mark Saturday night, and it was red.
Their band was crowned Nebraska's best high school marching band.
The Chieftains scored highest at the 31st Annual Nebraska State Bandmasters Association Marching Contest in Omaha.
Bellevue West High Thunderbirds finished second, edging out third-place Millard West High by the slightest margin.
The contest marks the final performance for most bands in the state, who started practicing their shows back in the summer and perfected them with hours of practice, rain or shine, in the months since then.
It's a fabulous display of skill and beauty that turns a drab, cold football field into spectacle of precision and fun.
Bellevue East performed a dazzler, a show titled “The Lady in Red,” offering a new take on the Red Riding Hood tale, this time with the girl getting the best of the beast, with a dagger.
Students played red trombones, and in the finale the marching band switched on little red lights. Music included Rolling Stones hits “Ruby Tuesday” and “Paint It Black,” as well as “Red Cape Tango.”
The judges also gave East awards for best effect and best music.
Bellevue East percussion instructor Zack Bresler said winning is nice but marching band is about teaching kids life skills like discipline, dedication and teamwork.
“Bringing home trophies is icing on the cake,” Bresler said. “Everything we do is to make these kids better people.”
The contest was held at two sites.
At Millard South High's Buell Stadium, 22 bands competed in open class for top-10 rankings and awards.
Judges award points for a variety of show components, including music performance, visual performance and overall effect.
A standing-room-only crowd packed the stadium as the awards were announced.
Bellevue West's crisp, unison flag work earned the band best color guard. West's show, “The Awakening,” also won best visual.
Millard West delivered an emotional crowd-pleaser titled “Imagine If” that delivered an urgent plea for peace.
Kim Meradith, who was in the stands supporting her son in a different band, said the show moved her to tears.
“It's not my school, but every time I watch it I start to cry,” Meradith said.
Her son, Tyler, is a senior bass drum player in the Papillion-La Vista South band.
Rounding out the top 10 were Millard North, fourth, Omaha Burke, fifth, Papillion-La Vista South, sixth, Millard South, seventh, Westside, eighth, Elkhorn South, ninth, and Norris, tenth.
Omaha Burke won the award for best percussion.
Meantime, at Seacrest Field in Lincoln, bands competed in a festival format for ratings only.
The events were a spectacle in every sense.
Bands marched and danced and sang, while drum lines punched out precise rhythms and color guards in creative costumes swung flags and tossed rifles.