Bobcats at the bowl: Looking back, 10 years later

Friday, January 3, 2014
Photo submitted The 2003 Berryville High School Bobcat Band prepares to head to Dallas, Texas, to perform at the Cotton Bowl in front of 70,000 people and on national television.

BERRYVILLE -- As college football bowl season is in full swing, several locals are recalling memories of a trip they took to the Cotton Bowl 10 years ago.

The Berryville High School Bobcat Band headed to Dallas, Texas, from Dec. 29, 2003, through Jan. 1, 2004, where the students scored "Superior" rankings in the concert, street parade, jazz and field show divisions. The BHS crew was also named "Outstanding Band" in the jazz and field show divisions.

"They represented the community, state and their families with class in every aspect you could ask for," said Jim Swiggart, who was the BHS band director at the time. "I had fun doing it; it was very gratifying."

The BHS band performed in the halftime show, alongside bands from the University of Texas, Louisiana State University and 19 other high schools.

Also as part of their trip, the students visited Southfork Ranch, where they got to do some line-dancing.

The road to get to Texas for the Cotton Bowl wasn't an easy one, though. When then-Superintendent Dr. Don Roberts hired Swiggart as the band director in 2001, there were only 17 students in the band.

"They hadn't participated in contests in years," Swiggart said, adding that was one of his first goals as band director.

They started meeting after school to get more practices in, and soon interest in the program grew; in 2002, they changed the scheduling to allow more students to enroll in band class.

"We had 30 or 40 students in there," Swiggart said.

After a good showing at the state band competition, one of the judges suggested the Berryville band to Cotton Bowl officials, and an offer was made early on in 2003.

"It was going to be nationally televised -- that was exciting for our little town," said Donesa Mann, who was the Band Booster Club president and parent to one of the band members, Jachin Mann.

In September 2003, the high school band had 76 members, and they all got heavily involved in fundraisers.

"We went to the community," Swiggart said. "The whole town started working really hard. The enthusiasm for seeing what they could accomplish was very high."

"It was not easy to raise all that money, but it was well worth it," Mann said, adding they raised about $50,000, which went both to buying new instruments and raising money for the trip.

There were a lot of band fundraisers to hit that total, but the key money-makers were the car washes at Walmart -- which were held every weekend during summer 2003 -- and a fall chicken dinner fundraiser.

"We raised $6,000 in one night," Mann said of the chicken dinner.

The fundraiser took place all day and night before a football game; they set up a tent near Community First Bank, serving take-out orders and doing deliveries to local businesses. Tyson Foods donated the use of their cooker and all of the chicken, and other businesses and restaurants donated various parts of the meal, including bread, ketchup and other items.

"It was almost all profit for us," Mann said.

She added that they raised $3,000 from the meal, and Community First Bank agreed to match whatever they raised.

"They live in a community that cares about what the kids do," Swiggart said. "You just turn around and people are there to help out."

The 69 students who represented Berryville at the Cotton Bowl 10 years ago were: Brandi Moore, Nate Power, Matt Rich, Drew Smith, Anthony Guerrero, Ryan Henderson, Shane Roberts, Ben Guerrero, Trevor Gies, Andy Hudspeth, Rachel Reuter, Vicki Travis, Elizabeth Perkins, Whitney Perkins, Claire Allison, Sabrina Rodman, Jessica Erives, Patricia Burkett, Derek Bohannon, Tina Schneider, Julia Horton, Holly Bland, Carmen Brewer, Rachel Young, Jessica Ims, Sarah Neal, Megan Williams, Matthew Reuter, Jeri Peckins, Karla Pecina, Myra Diaz, Will Cook, Eddie Boche, Janice Ayers, Letitia Smith, Mackinsie Stunkard, Michael Hopper, Jachin Mann, Daisy Juarez, Emily Howard, Caitlyn Gray, Eleny Boche, Stephanie Kline, Kent Butler, Dexter Eastwood, Jared Scarborough, Jared Warner, Tiffany Gonce, Samantha Connine, Sandy Nieves, Preston Enix, Brian Curtis, Devon Anderson, Cody Moore, Bobby Holland, Stephanie Hughes, Brandi Davis, Eric Young, Jason Ball, Wesley Jetton, Joesph Eby, Patti Morris, Samantha Eastwood, Eden Doss, Meagan Blevins, Kandra Davis, Tara Currie, Kayla Sorce and Jenna Young.

"Most of the kids had not been over the state line," Swiggart said. "The kids would just be wide-eyed. It was an incredible feeling to look around and see their expressions."

Swiggart and Mann also said that the trip to the Cotton Bowl was a starting point for the current Berryville High School Bobcat Band.

"It was the beginning of years of success," Mann said. "That was the year that really started our program."

"Berryville plays higher than the highest levels," Swiggart said. "They are an example for other schools."

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