Under blue skies and fluffy clouds, and with the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop, the color guard from American Legion Post 20 led Scout Troop 132, with Scout Advisor Don Valdez, onto the track of the Jacob Rankin Stadium carrying an extra-large American flag as a packed-to-capacity crowd cheered and clapped and got to their feet as the flag stopped in front of the stands for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Then the music began, as the 11 bands, starting with Porterville High School and ending with Bartlett Middle School, each played their patriotic selection as they marched down the track, one band at a time, before taking their respective place on the field turning it into a kaleidoscope of color.
Once all 569 students and 76 volunteers were on the field, emcee Eric Ball welcomed the crowd.
“Fifty-two years ago, Buck Shaffer started a tradition,” Ball said as he talked about the start of what's now known as the Veterans Day Buck Shaffer Band-A-Rama. “The size of the event is a testament of Buck’s legacy.”
The program pays tribute to former, current and fallen heroes.
“The show is dedicated to our service men and women who have served our country, or are currently serving our country,” Ball said.
Ball then introducing former Porterville Panther Band Director Jim Kusserow to conduct the unrehearsed, mass band, performance beginning with the playing of “America the Beautiful” and followed by the patriotic “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”
“Our area has traditionally demonstrated patriotism through time,” Ball said.
The patriotic music continued with majorettes and twirlers from all of the school bands, and from the community, spinning and twirling to the music of the U.S. Navy’s “Anchors Aweigh” and to the official march of the U.S. Marine Corps.
The mass band continued with the U.S. Army and U.S Air Force songs, and veterans in the audience were asked to stand when they heard their signature military branch march.
“Abide with Me” was played to remember the soldier who never came home.
Band directors were also acknowledged during the program.
And Kusserow praised the musicians.
“I want you to know how proud I am of the effort every one of you has made to come back after 18 months and put on a show like this — with no rehearsal.”
In the past, Kusserow said there have been upwards of 1,000 participants, and this year, 569.
“The difference is not in numbers, the difference is in the performance,” Kusserow said. “And what’s in your heart. This community and this area support music and young people like no other.”
Reigning over the ceremonies was the 2021 Veterans Homecoming Queen Kyleen Mitchell and her court, Lily Cisneros and Azalea Rose Gutierrez, who were introduced just prior to the event.
The program ended with half time shows from Granite Hills, Monache and Porterville High School bands.
Other bands to participate were from Summit Collegiate High School, Summit Charter Intermediate School, Strathmore High School, Woodlake High School, Pioneer Middle School, Sequoia Middle School and Burton Middle School.