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Thousands of marching band musicians return to football field to compete after a year off

Nearly 5,000 high school and college students performed at the 2021 Youth In Music Championships at U.S. Bank Stadium Saturday.

MINNEAPOLIS — Will Pelley doesn't do traditional sports, but the junior at Washington High School in Sioux Falls takes marching band competitions just as seriously as any football game.

"When I get out there, my heart starts pumping," said Pelley.

Saturday, Pelley was one of thousands of students competing in the Youth In Music Championships, the biggest marching band competition in the nation. Thirty-two high school bands and two college bands from across Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska performed on the field to a crowd of parents and supporters.

It's an experience long-awaited after a lost year due to COVID-19. Pelley's band made the four-hour trip from South Dakota to make it there.

"It feels great to be back out on the field with my family," said Pelley. "I love these guys. Being able to perform and get that habit back in my bones, it's pretty nice."

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Youth in Music President Brent Turner said the stadium was filled with a "elation."

"It gets me goosebumps to be back here, it gets me into an emotional space because for the kids, this is their World Series," said Turner. "This is their Super Bowl, and that's why we're at U.S. Bank Stadium to give them that experience."

Turner says large competitions like this are a great change of pace from students' regular venues: high school football games.

"We always have that joke that football is in between our prelims and halftime of our performance at football games," turner said. "Here we get to be the focus."

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