Fitch band and choir to host Veterans Salute and Chili Cookoff

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Neighbors | Submitted.The Austintown Fitch marching band will co-host the annual Veteran’s Chili Cookoff with the concert choir on Nov. 12 from 2-4 p.m. at the high school cafeteria. A concert will follow in the gymnasium from 5-7 p.m.


Neighbors | Submitted .The Austintown Fitch concert choir will be performing at the Chili Cookoff on Nov. 12 from 2-4 p.m. at Austintown High School. The Veteran’s Salute concert, where the choir will be performing, will begin at 5 p.m. in the school’s gymnasium.

During World War II, parents of Austintown Fitch students conducted newspaper drives where they collected and sold old papers to raise funds for new band uniforms.

In the more than 70 years since that time, the high school marching band has defined themselves by military marching and music. The band, known for ending every marching show with the march, “Stars and Stripes Forever” not only demonstrates patriotism in each performance but they wear that patriotism on their sleeve. Actually, they wear it across their chest. Each band uniform, for more than a decade, has had a stars and stripes sash that tells everyone watching what is coming. From “National Emblem March” to “March Grandioso” to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to the “Stars and Stripes, the Fitch band has their standard one through four patriotic songs that they play to honor the country.

Six years ago, band director Wesley O’Connor, along with band parents Julie Day and Lisa Scannell came up with an idea of a veteran’s salute to end the band’s marching season. The event takes place on the weekend surrounding Veterans Day. In addition to a concert in the school gymnasium featuring both the high school and middle school bands, the band parents established a “Chili Cook-Off” which takes place prior to the concert in the Fitch Cafeteria. On Nov. 12 the public is invited to participate in the 2017 edition of the chili cook-Off from 2-4 p.m. in the cafeteria followed by a Veteran’s Salute Concert from 5-7 p.m.

For the second year of the event, the Austintown Board of Education joined as a co-sponsor. Local veteran and Austintown Board of Education member Ken Jakubec is working with local veterans to provide a military Color Guard to open the concert.

This year the band is adding an additional partner, the Fitch concert choir. For the past 45 years, the choir has performed at veteran’s hospitals around the country. In April of 2018, the choir will take a trip to the Veterans Administration’s Medical Center at Lyons, New Jersey. In addition they have been selected to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City. When choir director, and alumnus, Bill Klein asked band director Wesley O’Connor for fundraising tips for their April tour, O’Connor suggested Klein speak with his band parents booster club. The band parents were already working on raising funds to pay for the band’s April 2018 participation in the National Cherry Blossom Parade in Washington, D.C. Together the band and choir decided to team up on the Veteran’s Salute and Chili Cook-Off. In addition to the chili, the choir will have a Chinese Auction basket raffle during the dinner to help subsidize their trip.

Collaboration is not new to Austintown Fitch. The entrance to the high school features the Austintown Veterans Memorial. Senior drummer Seth Welch added to the existing memorial two years ago. He created a lighted display that depicts soldiers and flags from each branch of the armed services and safety forces as part of his Eagle Scout project. Five years ago, the class of 1962 built a memorial for classmates lost in the Vietnam War at Greenwood Chevrolet’s Falcon Stadium. This year, while in Washington, D.C., the band will lay a wreath at the Vietnam Wall for those Fitch graduates.

“The students that participate in the Austintown Fitch High School band and choir programs take great pride in honoring the U.S. Military,” Fitch High School principal Chris Berni said. “The energy and passion they put forth demonstrates the patriotism these young people have for our country.”

Austintown restaurants, Saadey’s on 46, O’Donnell’s Pub and Savatore’s Italian Grill, will be joining township trustees, Ken Carano and Jim Davis, along with band and choir parents, as well as Fitch staff, at 2 p.m. in the cafeteria with multiple variations of chili. Carano and Davis will be defending their 2016 People’s Choice Award. In addition to the People’s Choice Award, local veterans will judge first, second and third place chilies.

Tickets for the cook-off and the concert will be sold at the door. Dinner includes multiple chili tastes, cornbread, a cupcake and a beverage. The concert choir will be performing throughout the dinner. In addition to the basket raffle there will be a 50/50 drawing to benefit local veterans in need. Admission for both the dinner and concert is $10 for adults, $5 for children, senior citizens 65 and older and veterans. Admission for the concert only is $5 for adults, $3 for children and seniors 65 and over and veterans are free.

The 5 p.m. concert will feature patriotic selections middle school’s sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade bands under the direction of Jeremy McClaine, along with the 2017 marching music of the marching band. A performance of General Douglas MacArthur’s “Duty, Honor, County” speech will be set to music by the symphonic band with a narration by local Attorney, veteran and Fitch band alumnus, Raymond Hartsough. Ron Verb will serve as the Master of Ceremonies. The band will also present its annual Fitch Band Patriotism Award during the performance.

For more information, check out the Austintown Band Parents, Inc. page on Facebook or contact band parent president Brad Gessner at

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