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Newton's Eastside Band working to reach fund-raising finish line

EHS Band Director Al Fowler in his music room moving a sousaphone(which is a marching Tuba)

EHS Band Director Al Fowler in his music room moving a sousaphone(which is a marching Tuba)

COVINGTON -- The Eastside High School Band is revving up for a trip to perform at the Daytona 500 in February.

The Pride of Eastside Band has been invited to participate in the opening ceremonies of the famous NASCAR race on Feb. 26.

Band Director Alan Fowler said the band is very excited and has been working to raise funds for the trip since learning it had been selected in March to perform. They have been hosting a number of fundraisers, including selling pizza cards and hosting a fruit sale. Band members also plan to work at Kroger on U.S. Highway 278 during a Saturday in January to try to raise money for the trip.

Fowler said the band boosters, which is the nonprofit organization that supports the Eastside Band, has set a goal to raise $5,000 to help defray the transportation costs.The total cost of the trip will be about $500 a person, which has not been an easy task to raise, Fowler said.

"The economy is keeping some kids from going, even to the point that I had considered not going," he said.

But, said Fowler, who has been band director at EHS for 16 years, he wanted to keep up the tradition of taking the band on performance trips every other year or so. The band has taken trips to Chicago, Toronto and Ft. Myers, Fla.

In 2006, the Pride of Eastside performed at the Memorial Day ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

"It is so cool to be able to share these experiences with the kids," Fowler said.

The band plans to leave Feb. 23 and return after the race that kicks off the NASCAR racing season on Feb. 26. Fowler said the trip will also include a tour of St. Augustine, Fla., the country's oldest city, as well as a day at Universal Studios in Orlando. The band will rehearse at the Daytona International Speedway that Saturday in preparation for Sunday's race.

"It will be very much like the halftime experience at a college football bowl game," Fowler said. "The band will perform on the infield as part of the opening ceremonies and then the kids will get to stay and see the race."

But before the band can turn its attention to readying for the Daytona 500, it has several other holiday events to prepare for.

Fowler said the band is currently practicing for the annual Covington Christmas Parade to be held Saturday morning. On Sunday, Dec. 11, the Eastside Band will serve as the host band for the third annual TUBACHRISTMAS in Porterdale. The next day, Dec. 12, the band and the school's chorus will perform together for its holiday concert.

"That is always a lot of fun and we always have a full house," Fowler said. "The three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are crazy."

Fowler said the band always has a great time together. He's pleased to see more and more students who had not played an instrument in middle school join the Pride of Eastside.

"The most important thing to step toward success is the desire," Fowler said.

But it's also hard work.

After the trip in February, the band will begin practicing for the concert festival in March.

"By the time we get to that, we're already cranking up for next season," Fowler said. "There is no end for band season."

Anyone who would like more information about the Eastside Band or to help support their fundraising efforts can call the Eastside band room at 770-786-5922.