By Shelley Grieshop
The St. Marys High School Band truly had a rough ride last weekend on their trek to the state football finals in Canton.
Seemingly cursed with broken down buses and an obstacle course of deer, the 130 or so band members barely made it at all to the 11 a.m. game Saturday to cheer on the Roughriders.
"The whole thing was only funny on Sunday," laughed school Superintendent Ken Baker.
Band kids and chaperones arrived at 5:15 a.m. Saturday to load up the four city school buses. Moms and dads spent hours decorating the buses Friday for the big day, and the students were filled with excitement as they boarded.
Then the mayhem started -- the bus didn't. An electrical problem was identified and children and supplies were forced off the bus and reloaded onto another. About 30 minutes later, the convoy was headed to the big game -- or so everyone thought.
"We were about a half hour east of Upper Sandusky when Bambi met her demise," explained band director Dane Newlove.
The state patrol arrived and checked out the damaged bus before the occupants and baggage were squeezed onto the remaining three buses.
Another 30 minutes was lost and the school nurse began to monitor the band directors blood pressure.
Deb Wilker, a band mother with two children aboard, helped pack sandwiches for the students to eat at a rest stop on the way. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, the dry ice in the cooler froze the food.
"We couldn't believe it. What else could go wrong?" she thought to herself.
Obviously running late at this point, the chaperones herded the students in and out of the restrooms at a rest area in a record 18 minutes, and the buses returned to the highway, Wilker said.
However, as Murphy's Law goes, bumper to bumper traffic from the interstate to the stadium slowed the group down once again.
Baker already was at Fawcett Stadium and pacing as he received updates of the band's adventure via cell phone.
"The news just kept getting worse," he said.
The band was supposed to play the introduction and Star Spangled Banner before the game. That privilege eventually fell to the rival team's band.
"I felt so bad for the kids to miss the opportunity to do something they might never get again," Baker said.
The band finally arrived as the football went airborne during kick-off and later excelled as they performed at half time. However, the football team's loss to Cleveland Benedictine, 27-14, was just part of the ongoing bad luck.
A relaxing meal in Mansfield helped end the chaos on a happier note for the band, but the football team apparently inherited the curse. One of their two rented buses broke down near Beaver Dam and the players and coaches waited patiently for a replacement.
Fans decked out in blue and gold also waited and wondered what the hold-up was when their beloved team wasn't on time for the escort into town.
Meanwhile, as the band bus headed down state Route 30 home with students peering out windows on "deer patrol," it nearly collided once again with deer at the same spot as before.
"I don't know what it is about big yellow buses and deer," Baker said with a laugh.
It wasn't a perfect day by a long shot, but school officials praised bus drivers and transportation officials for the way they handled the misfortunes. At least everyone got back safe, Baker added.
"Kids will be talking about this trip for reunions to come," he said.