PRINCETON, WV (WVNS) — Princeton Senior High School’s ‘Southern Thunder’ band competition returns.

On Saturday, October 7, 2023, the Southern Thunder band competition returns to Hunnicutt Stadium. The competition starts at 3:00 p.m. and will continue throughout the evening until awards that night.

While Princeton’s band cannot compete in their own competition, they will have an exhibition performance at the end of the competition before the awards are given out.

This year’s competition will be the thirteenth Southern Thunder band competition hosted by Princeton Senior High School. Although the competition has been around longer, there were two years where the competition could not be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Band competitions mean a lot to bands, but what exactly makes them so special?

For bands, the competitions are where they see all of their hard work truly shine. Although bands do perform their shows at football games, the competitions are where the focus is entirely on them and their show.

Band competitions are where high school marching bands really get to shine. We get to come together with other schools and perform for each other, the parents, and in front of judges. The whole day is a celebration of what marching band is all about. It is truly a wonderful experience because in the end it isn’t the trophies that matter, it’s the friendships, the moments, and the memories that last. 

Greg Richmond | Princeton Senior High School Band Director

Band competitions are where students get to showcase their talents and creativity after working for months to develop a themed show that will impress an audience but also demonstrate their learned ability and skill level. They love to compete against other bands in the same way an athletic team competes against other schools. Students take so much pride in their work for their school and community so there can be a lot of pressure in each competition performance. Students remember their competition celebrations for years to come and it becomes most band student’s favorite thing about high school band.

Nick Hinkle | Bluefield High School Band Director

While all band competitions are enjoyed and loved by the bands, local band competitions hold their own unique place in the hearts of band students. Traveling to other competitions is one thing, however having a competition in their own county is not only special, but it can also make the students wish to push themselves to be the best that they can be while enjoying the support of their local community.

Southern Thunder is a big event not only for the band at Princeton, but for the school, and the community. We’re bringing in twenty high school bands from West Virginia and Virginia for this year’s competition. Over 800 band students will be performing at Hunnicutt Stadium on October 7th.

Greg Richmond | Princeton Senior High School Band Director

For me personally, I was a student at Princeton Senior High School so it’s fantastic for me to take my ensemble and perform in my hometown, on my high school field, in an event that has become a great passion in my life. For my students it is so important to get to perform in a competition in their home county with so much local support. We have a great fanbase that travels to cheer us on at Southern Thunder, as well as the county camaraderie between all the bands in Mercer County cheering for one another. It’s a special bond that not all county music programs get to experience.

Nick Hinkle | Bluefield High School Band Director

For bands, football games are certainly fun and exciting. They get to be there and support their team, perform at halftime, and play in the stands. However, at competitions the atmosphere is noticeably different for the bands.

There is a lot that goes into competition days. The bands arrive at the competitions, watch other bands before their own performance if there is time, get ready and warm up, go out and give their all for their performance, and afterwards often get to sit in the stands and enjoy the opportunity to watch multiple other bands perform their own shows before awards at the end of the competition.

With a football performance students give their all but know they are just a part of the bigger event. For a competition, their show is the event, so the pressure and attention to detail greatly increase. A football crowd reaction may love the music being performed or the flashy parts of a performance, but a competition audience is looking for every small detail. Correct marching step and spacing, musicality of a show, expression and emotions from the color guard, and does the show tell a story. Football performances can feel like final dress rehearsals before a competition performance.

Nick Hinkle | Bluefield High School Band Director

Competitions not only mean a lot to current band students, but they also leave fond memories for band alumni. The feelings that competitions give students do not only stay with them during their school years or just while they are performing, those feelings can stay with band alumni long after they are not performing on the field anymore.

For current band students, band alumni, and band directors, competitions can leave memories that they can look back on and be proud of. They can be proud of the work they put into their performance, the hours that they spent practicing the music and the field show, and the results of it all once the bands perform their hearts out on the field.

Competitions for bands are the culmination of all the hard work and dedication they have put out when no audience is watching. All the afterschool practices, early mornings, late nights, working the same 30 seconds of show over and over until everyone can perform a move correctly. Competitions are where all your energy and focus can pay off. Students remember their awards for years to come, and for some it becomes the highlight of their high school years. It helps a band program in building community support, recruit for the future of the band, and having something you look back on as a great achievement. The energy around my students this year after their first high scoring competition performance makes them feel like they can achieve anything if they work for it. Band students remember how a competition performance makes them feel forever.

Nick Hinkle | Bluefield High School Band Director

A local band competition like Southern Thunder means a lot to the bands and community members. For Princeton’s band, although the event itself is on October 7, 2023, planning for the competition usually starts long before the competition date.

The community of Princeton really supports Southern Thunder. Many businesses sponsor the event, and we have a number of vendors that set up booths at the stadium and sell items to the visiting bands. Southern Thunder is the band’s largest fundraiser of the year. We start planning for it usually in April, and it takes a lot of hard work and parent support. Without all the parents behind the scenes, we could never make this event happen.

Greg Richmond | Princeton Senior High School Band Director

You do not have to be part of the band or family members to attend the competition. Everyone is welcome to come, whether you want to go and enjoy watching the performances and listening to the music, or just want to support the bands.

According to the Southern Thunder at PSHS Facebook page, the bands participating in Southern Thunder include:

  • Webster County
  • Independence
  • Wyoming East
  • North Marion
  • Liberty
  • Auburn
  • Hurricane
  • Bluefield
  • Wirt County
  • Oak Hill
  • James Monroe
  • Shady Spring
  • Pikeview
  • Scott
  • Tazewell
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Nelson County
  • Salem
  • Blacksburg
  • Cabell Midland

The performance times for each of the bands can be found on the Southern Thunder at PSHS Facebook page.

Tickets for the competition are $10 and can be bought online at by searching Princeton Senior High School, or with cash at the gates of the stadium on the day of the competition.

March your way over to Hunnicutt Stadium at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 7, 2023 and enjoy watching these bands put on a show.