Band and choir co-host annual chili cook-off event

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Neighbors | Zack Shively.After the Chili Cook-Off, the Austintown bands played in the auditorium for their annual Veterans Salute. The event included performnces from the Fitch marching, symphonic, sixth-grade, seventh-grade and eighth-grade bands. Nearly all music played were patriotic songs. The concert sprung from the idea of the marching band perform an indoor concert after football season.


Neighbors | Zack Shively.The Fitch show choir benefited from the Chili Cook-Off for their trip to New York and New Jersey at the end of the year. Led by Bill Klein, pictured here holding the microphone, the choir performed at the event and thanked veterans at the event during their performance of "God Bless the U.S.A."


Neighbors | Zack Shively.The judges of the Chili Cook-Off sampled all 17 versions of chili. Those at the event could also place a vote for the people's vote for best chili.


Neighbors | Zack Shively.Raymond Hartsough read Douglas MacArthur's famous "Duty, Honor, Country" speech at Austintown's Veterans Salute concert on Nov. 12. The Fitch symphonic band performed a piece written by Harold Walters to accompy the speech.


Neighbors | Zack Shively.Austintown Fitch High School had a Chili Cook-Off in the school's cafeteria on Nov. 12. The event featured chili from 12 parents, four restaurants and a caterer. Pictured is one of the restaurants that participated in the event, O'Donald's Irish Pub and Grill.


Austintown Fitch High School hosted the annual Chili Cook-Off event from 2-4 p.m. and the Veterans Salute concert began at 5 p.m. at the high school on Nov. 12.

The Fitch show choir ran the Chili Cook-Off this year. All proceeds from the event went to their organization to help them fund for their trip to New York and New Jersey near the end of the year.

Brad Gessner, who helped organize both events, set up a place for the chili cookers and judges. Seventeen different chefs competed to be named the best chili. The chefs included 12 parents of the choir and band students, four restaurants and one caterer.

Five veterans judged the event. They selected Janet Yantes for third place, Tom Puz for second place and Saadey’s Place for first place.

The show choir performed during the event. They walked to the veterans and thanked them personally during their performance of “God Bless the U.S.A.“ The show choir also did basket raffles during the event. They had 30 baskets to give away.

The band’s end of the year trip will include performances at a veterans hospital in New Jersey and Carnegie Hall in New York City. The band performs at a veterans hospital every year.

In addition to chili, some parents brought corn bread, cupcakes and other small treats. The leftover food went to the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley.

The band concert began after the cook-off ended. The Veterans Salute Concert featured performances by the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade bands, as well as the high school’s marching and symphonic bands.

Band director Wesley O’Connor said the event was geared toward the school’s military tradition. He explained that most marching bands in the area do a concert performing their marching show. He took that concept and added other school bands to perform for the veterans.

The concert took place in the gymnasium. The gym floor had two different set ups for bands. The marching band sat on one side while the other side rotated between the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade bands. The marching band stayed still because they played their songs between the performances from the middle school bands.

Jeremy McClain directed the middle school bands. Each played a set of patriotic songs, such as the sixth-grade’s playing of “America the Beautiful,“ the seventh-grade’s rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,“ and the eighth-grade’s performance of “Yankee Doodle Boy.“

The marching band’s group of songs included patriotic songs as well as popular songs. They played “Liberty Bell,“ a John Phillip Sousa military march. They also played “Phantom of the Opera“ from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway musical.

The Fitch Symphonic Band played one song: “Duty, Honor, Country.“ Raymond Hartsough, a local attorney, read General Douglas MacArthur’s famous “Duty, Honor, Country“ speech while the band performed an accompanying arrangement to the speech created by Harold Walters.

The marching band followed this performance with a playing of the “Armed Forces Medley,“ a musical piece that includes songs for the five branches of the armed forces. Veterans stood as their branch’s song played. The band also played “The Stars and Stripes Forever“ by Sousa.

The performance ended with a playing of “The Star Spangled Banner.“ The Fitch Band has historically played the National Anthem last at their performances. The program of the event explains the history of why they does this.

According to the program, Donald Hurrelbrink rehearsed with his V.F.W. Boy’s Band at St. Mary’s High School in Warren, Ohio on Dec. 7, 1941. When news broke that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Hurrelbrink immediately stopped practice and the band played the National Anthem. After that day, he always ended his performance with “The Star Spangled Banner“ to honor those who lost their lives that day and to commemorate America.

Hurrelbrink would become a Fitch band director later in his life. Even after he stopped directing the band, the school’s tradition of ending their military performances with the National Anthem continued.

This was the fourth annual Chili Cook-Off and sixth annual Veterans Salute. The band originally benefitted from both events, but they had the choir run the Chili Cook-Off to help them continue their tradition of performing at veterans hospitals.

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