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HBCU marching band competition comes to El Paso

Special to The Prospector

After three years of planning, El Paso will host the Historically Black Colleges and Universities marching band competition for the first time. The Battle of El Dorado will be showcased at 2 p.m. May 2 at the Sun Bowl Stadium. The community will get to witness unsurpassed showmanship and student-musicians’ talent.

With a mission to bring diversity to the community, Sports X, an El Paso-based organization, along with UTEP and Ticketmaster, collaborated to bring a much-needed educational aspect to El Paso. The main focus of the event is to offer college scholarships in all aspects of marching band to El Paso area students.

“Marching band members are athletes who work hard during the season and have limited outlets to use their talents to gain a college education,” said Johnny Rivers, Sports X and Battle of El Dorado’s spokesperson.

“We wanted to give them something to aspire to just like any other sport at the end of the season.”

The winner of the competition will receive a monumental trophy created by El Paso resident Don Davis, who is a world-famous National Hot Rod Association racecar builder and former Gadsden educator.

Serving as a platform to highlight and celebrate the heritage and showmanship of HBCU marching bands, more than 600 band members from Alcorn State University, Mississippi Valley State University and Prairie View A&M University will participate, and up to 90 different scholarships will be awarded to the best competitors.

“Our target audience for this event are the families of the bands members represented within the colleges and universities. So we want to expose their hard work and talent and reward those students for it,” Rivers said. “Wowing giant crowds is expected from other HBCU competitions and the Battle of El Dorado will be no different.”

More than 30 high schools in the El Paso area will also get the chance to win cash prizes. There will also be a local drum-line competition, which will take place prior to the main event.  A plaque will be given to the each school band and band-related scholarships from the participating universities at the main event.

Sports X will be using drones to add viewing components never seen before in marching band competitions. The Battle of El Dorado will also attempt to set a Guinness world record for the most college marching band scholarships awarded at a single event.

“We are honored to support these programs with scholarships and want to stand out as a national music scholarship program dedicated to supporting HBCU music education programs,” Rivers said.

Support for the HBCU band competition came from U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, and his local staff, Destination El Paso, the Downtown Management District and other local business and community organizations.

Inspiration for naming the competition came from Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “El Dorado,” and Sports X incorporated it’s own adaptions into all aspects of the event.

The theme of the popular poem depicts a knight in search of great wealth in the fictional city of El Dorado, which in the competition is represented by El Paso and the knight is represented by the three university bands that are participating.

Using a torch and individual welding rods, Davis’ statue was created more than 50 years ago at Texas Western College (now UTEP).

The one-of-a-kind trophy signifies the particular style of the marching band culture and costs more than $20,000.

Erika Esquivel, senior communication major, said the Battle of El Dorado benefits the community in many ways.

“It brings diversity to our community, where other people from across the country get to see the beautiful things El Paso has to offer,” Esquivel said. “Not only that, but our local high school students get the opportunity to participate and showcase their talents, which would be great for recruiting opportunities.”

A band performance will also take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 1 at Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss.

Valerie Herrera may be reached at [email protected].

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HBCU marching band competition comes to El Paso