Friday marks the latest, greatest, installment of an annual event that draws the Big Orange faithful from every corner of the Tennessee Valley. With city, county, and state law enforcement officers leading the way, lights flashing and sirens blaring, the University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Marching Band will make its way to Miller Park is for a concert at high noon.
The more than half-a-dozen motorcoaches will line the curb in front of the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building. Out of them will stream students from nearly every field of study at UTK from all three Grand Divisions of the Volunteer State and beyond. The Pride will play traditional tunes associated with the Tennessee Volunteers, the Pregame sequence, some of their halftime music from this season, spirit pieces they play in the stands, and, of course... Rocky Top!
Initially formed following the Civil War, the band started small, attached to the Military Department on the Knoxville campus, and was all-male. Since then, The Pride has represented the university and the state at a dozen consecutive Presidential Inaugurations, at more than 40 bowl games, and on fields and in parades in the states and in Europe. The Pride of the Southland celebrates 145 years of great tradition, today, more than 300 members strong and under the direction of its second female Drum Major: Jessica Henderson.
The group is known around the globe for precision marching and "Circle Drill," but the Chattanooga stopover has become quite a tradition, itself. The Vols play at Alabama and at Georgia in alternating seasons. So, each year the group passes through, they stop to deliver this free concert. Roger Woody set up the first stop more than 30 years ago and, with the Chattanooga Region UT Knoxville Alumni Chapter, he is still involved, today. The concert is a public service to UT fans in the area, a quick reunion for band parents, and an important recruitment tool for the UTK Band program.
This year, there is a bit of a change. The entire band will arrive in uniform, warm-up, and play as normal, but then, about 2/3 of the group will head back to Knoxville. During halftime at Athens, the University of Georgia is planning to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Coach Vince Dooley's first team, the 1964 Sun Bowl Champions. There will be no time for the full Pride to perform, so a pep band will play from the stands instead.
Friday's event is free of charge and weather is set to be just about perfect. You are invited to don your orange and white and head on down to Miller Park for a little taste of Gameday, Tennessee Tradition, and the Pride of the Southland!