MICHIGAN CITY – When the Michigan City High School Marching Wolves took the field for competitions in recent years, they were at a competitive disadvantage right off the bat, and it had nothing to do with talent.
"When we go to competitions, we are not up to par on the visual look of the band," band director Frank Gast said of the marching band's uniforms.
"They are about 25 years old," he said, "and these kinds of uniforms are generally made to last 10 to 15 years. There is a lot of wear and tear, with seams ripping, buttons popping off ... And then when they bought some new pants about 13 years ago, they didn't match the jackets."
But when the marching band takes the field this fall, they hope to do so with a much-improved look, though will be needing some help to make that happen.
According to Michigan City Area Schools spokeswoman Betsy Kohn, "The old uniforms date back to consolidation – 25 years. They are outdated, hot, and difficult to repair and even clean any more. The new look will be much more modern and sleek, as most uniforms today are, with a more drum corps-type style."
But they're not cheap, Gast said.
"The cost of a new uniform is about $500. The school won't pay for uniforms of any kind, so we are doing all the fundraising on our own through seeking donations, fundraising events, social media ... We're kind of nickel-and-diming our way through it."
New uniforms have been ordered, but a big bill will be due in early September.
"We ordered the first 80 uniforms for this year and next," Gast said. "We usually like to have about 115 to 130 in stock in case of problems, and we always get a lot of extra ones – large and small."
He said about half the cost of those first 80 uniforms has been paid, "but we need to make another payment of $20,000 by Sept. 1 and still have to collect about $18,000 of that. Our goal is $70,000 to pay for them all. We had a fundraiser last week and got about $2,500, but we still need to get a lot of donations."
To help make that happen, the band has "launched a big fundraising campaign," Kohn said. "They have raised around $20,000 so far, but have a long way to go and can use all the support they can get."
About 65 to 75 students have signed up to be members of the band for 2019-20 and are already practicing regularly in the school's band room or practice football field, depending on the weather.
The new uniforms will be dark gray and blue, and will be "unique" to MCHS, Gast said.
Stanbury Marching Uniforms out of Missouri is creating the new uniforms.
"They do this for bands across the country," he said. "But the design is unique to us. They don't double up on designs for schools in the same region.
"The basic ones are blue and gray, with some white in the drum major uniforms. It's a little different shade of blue than the school colors."
He said Stanbury representatives actually came to the school to get the needed sizes.
"They actually measured every kid in the band for next year, so there is one specifically for each," Gast said. "Then they use a computer program to figure out the average sizes and decide how many of each size to make the rest."
A uniform can also be adjusted for individual body shapes and sizes.
"They have different snaps on the pants and coat sleeves so they fit everyone right," Gast said. "We don't do alterations because once you do an alteration, they're finished."
While the band practices for performances at school and community events – including Saturday's Patriotic Parade – fundraising efforts continue behind the scenes.
"The goal is to replace all of our deteriorating uniforms with a more contemporary design," Gast said, calling the band "a vibrant part of the Michigan City community, proudly representing our school at football games, local competitions and parades."
They "inspire school spirit, enhance community image, and augment student learning," he said – and they're reaching out to all alumni and friends of the music program to donate to the Michigan City High School Marching Band Uniform Campaign.
Tax-deductible donations can be sent to MCHS Marching Band Uniform Campaign, 8466 W. Pahs Rd., Michigan City, IN 46360, and checks should be payable to: Michigan City High School, Attention: Marching Band Uniform Campaign.
There are several levels of donation, and the names of all donors will be listed on the Marching Band Trailer and on a plaque in the Music Wing at MCHS. Business donors will get their logo on the trailer, with the size of the logo based on the amount of the donation.