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'Surprise for a lot of people': Rocky Ford marching band gets big time support

The Rocky Ford Marching Meloneers are small in numbers but big at heart when it comes to help from their community.

ROCKY FORD, Colo. — The third stop of our “Hearts of Champions” tour takes us to Rocky Ford Jr./Sr. High School in rural southeastern Colorado.

The Rocky Ford Meloneer Marching Band has pride as rich as the farmland in this agricultural community, known for growing cantaloupe and watermelon.

This 1A marching band has about 30 members – and younger students than most schools, with members starting when they’re in seventh grade. Jonathan Colson, the school’s director of music, said that’s one of the challenges about being a smaller marching band.

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“It’s such a hard concept, especially at that young of age,” Colson said. “I never ask them for perfection. I just ask them for improvement, especially since we’re a seventh-12th marching band.”

Credit: Byron Reed
Rocky Ford Jr./Sr. High School Director of Music Jonathan Colson said, "Being a small school, none of the students can ‘hide’ on the field."

Senior Lilian Maes plays flute and piccolo and said because they’re a smaller marching band, they must work harder than most schools.

“We can’t make those little mistakes big schools can make,” Maes said. “We don’t have as much, so we can’t get away with as much. We have to make sure we do everything right.”

Credit: Byron Reed
Rocky Ford Marching Meloneer senior Liliana Maes said, "This is my last chance, I’m going to do as much as I can to get to the top."

Even though they're smaller and younger, this marching band spent their summer band camp ready to learn how to march, play and spin — with a wave of support from their community.

Oliver Manufacturing and Thin Blue Creative Designs donated an equipment truck and T-shirts. Colson said he’s happy to see people rally around the marching band.

“Seeing the support that even some of the farmers are giving us as well now as we continue is great!” he said.

The community spirit has even caught the attention of his students. Senior drum major Silki Baca said she appreciates the help.

Credit: Byron Reed
Rocky Ford Jr./Sr. High School drum major Silki Baca conducts the marching band during their summer band camp.

“Its super nice to have people to come out,” Baca said. “Businesses like Thin Blue Creative and Oliver Transportation that support us financially, parents that come out and donate their time to help set up for competitions.”

Last year, the Marching Meloneers finished third in the 1A state finals. This year, the group is putting in the hard work now, hoping to get a taste of the state title in the fall.

Colson said it’s a motivation that’s been renewed since their marching program was reinstated four years ago.

Credit: Byron Reed
Rocky Ford Marching Meloneers

“We started in back in 2018 after about 15 years of no marching band at the school,” he said. “We’ve now marched three seasons here in Colorado, and we’ve been seventh for two years, and then this past year, we went up to third.”

These marching members are dedicated to find the right recipe for success to give their band of supporters in this town of about 4,000 another reason to be proud.

Credit: Byron Reed

“They’re the reason why they’re what they’re doing right now,” Colson said. “I’m there helping them along, but their motivation is seen through me as well.”

> Video below: The Rocky Ford Marching Meloneers compete in the 2021 state finals:

RELATED: Colorado's high school marching bands are ready to take the field

> Click here for more information about the Rocky Ford Marching Meloneers.

Editor's note: This story is part of 9NEWS' "Hearts of Champions: Marching across Colorado" series, where we're highlighting marching bands across the state. Watch our full stories Friday mornings through the middle of September. Share your photos and memories with us using #Bandon9.

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