NAUGATUCK — The Thunder has rumbled off into the distance, at least for this year.
Thunder in the Valley, the Naugatuck High School band’s annual competition, has been canceled due to a lack of interest from other schools’ bands and band director Robert Kogut’s concern that ticket and concession sales would not raise enough cash to pay for police, fire and janitorial coverage for the event, which costs about $2,000 for the entire day.
In previous years, Kogut said, admission and food sales have raised between $5,000 and $8,000, before the cost of public safety. But in those years, as many as 12 bands from around the state participated and drew a large regional audience. This year, only three bands were interested in making the trip to Veteran’s Field. And Kogut felt the band wouldn’t have been able to raise even the $2,000 needed to cover costs—“Financially, we would have taken a loss,” he said.
“The main reason is that we are one of the few [schools] that only have a dirt field,” Kogut continued. “Everybody over the years realized how bad our field is. I mean, even when it’s in good shape it’s in bad shape. There’s a football game on Friday night, so the field was just going to torn to shreds [on Saturday], and a lot of bands knew that, too.”
For the past five years, Kogut said, the event was forced inside due to rain. At synthetic turf fields, rain—barring, of course, torrential rain—does not drive band competitions from their natural outdoor habitat.
“Bands have been great about coming [in previous years],” he said. “After getting rained out so many times, they said forget it. It costs them hundreds and hundreds of dollars to get bused down here for the night. They just can’t keep supporting us.”
Additionally, a band competition on New Milford High School’s turf field scheduled for the same night and drew interest away from the borough school’s event, which has been held annually for 18 consecutive years.
Thunder in the Valley, which is one of only two major fundraising events the band holds annually—the other is an antique sale in February—helps fund the 60-member troupe’s trips to seven other competitions throughout the year. Fundraising also helps cover students whose families can’t afford the $120 activities and cleaning fees all band members must pay.
“Because of financial situations at home, [about a half-dozen students] can’t afford to be in band this year,” Kogut said. “We don’t want to have them left out because they can’t afford it.”
To make up for revenues lost due to the popular event’s cancellation, band members will, in full uniform and in groups of two or three, canvass Naugatuck neighborhoods on Oct. 24 and 31 to ask residents for donations. The musicians will wear pedometers so at the end of the day, Kogut can determine which group covered the greatest area.
“The kids will be in their full marching uniforms—helmet, plume, the whole nine yards,” Kogut said. “If everything works the way it should, we should be able to make the five or seven thousand we would have made at the show.”
In coming years, the band will try to field a profitable home competition like it has for almost two decades.
Those interested in donating directly should send checks to The NHS Band. 543 Rubber Ave., Naugatuck 06770.