It begins with a faint touch of sound, as if creeping over the horizon.
Thump, thump, thump.
Then a hint of trumpets, trombones, flutes and saxophones begins to join the cadence. Maybe you're sitting on your porch on a lazy summer day and the crescendo builds until streams of young musicians march in front of your home, filling the Pueblo air with music.
If you've lived here long, you've probably experienced it.
And the experience gained by the teenagers who put on the show is invaluable.
When it recently wrapped up another season of marching and playing music, the Sun City Marching Band celebrated 30 years of putting Pueblo kids on the streets and entertaining the county. It's become an institution for middle school-aged musicians to hone their craft in a different way during the summer months.
"Sun City . . . I just smile when I say that," current director Mark Emery said. "It's so much fun. The kids have fun, they're smiling and I'm smiling.
It's just a good time."
Emery, the retired director of the wildly successful Pueblo County High School marching band, has wielded the Sun City baton for the last 18 years. But it was 31 years ago when a triumvirate of band directors collaborated to establish the group.
Mike DeLuca, Galen Feeback and Rick Hatfield were all music instructors with Pueblo School District 60 in 1981 and each brought their own ingredients of ideas of what would become Sun City.
DeLuca, who was the band director at Freed Middle School, said that when he began teaching in the 1970s, there was a movement toward marching bands within the school curriculum. After some off-key experiences, he was firmly convinced that marching would be better served in the summer.
His bands would practice in the limited time available, try to prepare for a performance and something would happen -- like getting rained out -- preventing the kids from feeling the satisfaction of their hard work.
"I said I'm not going to do this any more," DeLuca said. "This could easily work as a summer activity."
Feeback, then the music director at Risley, began brainstorming with DeLuca about how they could establish a summer marching band for middle school kids, similar to what Pride City had been doing for high school students since 1959.
"It took us a whole year to get this thing going," Feeback said. "The three of us got together and started preparing for how we're going to make it happen."
Hatfield, who was teaching music at four elementary schools, joined the mix and the trio began navigating the waters of school administration and the Pueblo Parks and Recreation Department to start up the group.
"Mike and I met in Pride City and grew up with that heritage. I talked with Mike about establishing a group like that," Hatfield said.
"I'm proud of the fact that Mike, Galen and I came up with the idea and made it happen. I'm proud of us, I'm proud of the kids."
DeLuca said they visited all the schools and sent a letter to every student, not just band kids, about Sun City. In July of 1982, about 125 kids came out for the first rendition of the band.
Any student entering seventh or eighth grades was eligible to participate.
They would meet in the evening at City Park and practice until the sun was going down -- or until it was completely dark. A strong parent group, with representatives from each school, provided an invaluable support system for the three directors as Sun City quickly became a fixture on the summer parade circuit.
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