In 1980, former long-time Pell City Band Director Dennis Diffee started a marching band festival hosted at Pell City High School.
On Saturday, Oct. 19 he was back to present an award named in his honor for the 40th Annual Pell City Marching Festival, the second longest band festival in the state. Melba White Tatum, widow of former Pell City band director Ronnie White who passed away in 2005, was also there to present the Ronnie White Award for highest music score.
Dennis Diffee was the Pell City High School Band Director for 20 years, where he shared his love of music with his students.
“I never went to work, I had fun!” Diffee said. After seeing the 2019 Marching Band of Gold perform their halftime show at the festival although they didn’t compete, Diffee said they were “top notch.”
The festival brought high school bands from 18 different schools to compete, despite the chilly and rainy weather. The festival also serves as a fundraiser for the Pell City High School “Band of Gold,” with band members, parents, alumni and boosters volunteering in concessions and booths such as the drum beat competition.
“I would like to say a special thank you to all of the parents that helped out with our marching festival this weekend,” said Corey Funderburg, Pell City High School Director of Bands. “Many out of the 18 bragged on our hospitality that say they will be coming back next year. We could not do things like a marching competition with out the passion and hard work of great parents. It was such a great surprise to have Dennis Diffee and Melba White Tatum present our awards.”
Current Pell City School Superintendent, Dr. James Martin, was at the first Pell City Marching Festival in 1980, competing with the Smith Station High School Band.
“Bands now are a lot bigger than back then,” Martin remembers. “I’d never trade my experience as a band student for anything. It teaches you to socialize and work together for a common goal and purpose.”
Awards were given for Best in Class Band, Drum Major, Majorette, Dance Line, Color Guard, Percussion, Most Entertaining, Highest Musical Score, and Best in Division. There were ten judges, who looked for how well each band played the music, their marching and maneuverability, and their general effect, i.e. if the band is entertaining and people are enjoying the performance. The Ronnie White Award was given for the highest music score and the Dennis Diffee Most Entertaining Award was awarded by judges’ choice.
Best in class awards for class A:
Drum Major- Glencoe
Best in Class for class AA:
Drum Major-White Plains
Majorette- Shelby County
Best in class for class AAA:
Drum Major- Hazel Green
Colorguard- Pleasant Grove
Band- Hazel Green
Best in class for class AAAA:
Drum Major: Southside
Colorguard- Pinson Valley
Best in Class for class AAAAA:
Drum Major: Prattville
The Ronnie White award for highest music score:
A & AA: Briarwood
AAA, AAAA, & AAAAA: Helena
The Dennis Diffee award for most entertaining band as selected by all the judges:
A & AA: Carver
AAA, AAAA, & AAAAA: Minor