ST. LOUIS – More than 60 bands came to the Dome at America’s Center Friday for the 25th annual Bands of America competition.

The weeds from the Dome parking lot have cleared, and a sea of buses unloads with young musicians carrying their instruments.

“It’s bigger, so it’s a lot more energy, and everybody is just wanting to do the best that they can,” said Hannah Ginginch, Belleville East Lancer Band drum major. “It just makes it a better experience.”

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The Belleville East marching band performed with big moves, big sounds, and what they hope is a winning performance. Especially, after being affected by COVID-19 for several years.

“This year felt very normal. We were excited. They worked their tails off,” said Timothy Hassal, Belleville East Lancer Band associate director. “Everybody knows the weight of this performance, so getting prepared for that was wonderful.”

High school marching bands from across the country are giving their all for the preliminary competition, which started Friday morning and will run through Saturday.

“So, you’re going to hear electronics, you’re going to see props, you’re going to see costuming that all bring a show to a much higher level than maybe one might think in a marching band show. This becomes an event,” said Neil Larrivee, Music For All vice president.

“Anytime we’re out there doing good, it just makes me feel really proud of our program and how far we’ve came,” said Destiny Thomas, Collinsville High School drum major.

Bands will perform until 9:30 p.m. on Friday. On Saturday, the preliminary competition will resume from 8 a.m. to midnight.

The finals will take place on Saturday night.