As hundreds of marching band students converged at Penn High School for the annual Carnival of the Bands, organizers took extra precautions for Saturday’s sweltering temperatures in the 90s.
Still, ambulances took 15 heat-sickened kids to local hospitals Saturday, said Penn Township Fire Battalion Chief Joe Calderone. None of the cases were serious, said Calderone, who expected all of them to go home before the day was over. Medics also treated and released another 20 students in a room inside of the school where they could cool down and receive intravenous fluids, he said.
It forced organizers to move the competition indoors an hour or two after the first band played at 1:30 p.m., said Sheri Campeau, a parent and pit crew leader who oversaw the physical setup of the event. It would go on until about 10 p.m.
Carnival of the Bands, in its 27th year, draws 32 bands from across northern Indiana, each ranging from nearly 30 to more than 200 band members, she said. Penn’s band, with 188 kids, would play in exhibition at the end.
“It’s always this weekend,” Campeau said, adding that they’ve had to move it indoors in prior years because of rain and sleet.
But both she and Calderone said it’s never triggered this level of medical response. Calderone said nine ambulances were called out from Penn, Cleveland, Clay and Baugo townships and from the Mishawaka Fire Department.
While Penn’s organizers “were doing everything” to combat the heat, he said, it was hard to overcome the heat on the artificial-turf field, where he said a firefighter’s device suggested temperatures above 120 degrees.
On top of its usual provisions, Campeau said organizers placed an extra 1,000 bottles of water at the field and another 3,000 in the cafeteria. Several golf carts each carried ice, wash cloths and towels as they also ferried older and disabled visitors. There was extra medical help, along with the ambulance that the event typically hires for the day. She said volunteers followed behind band members to unzip their suits when they weren’t performing — and told kids to take their suits off while they were warming up or just waiting. And no kid could refuse water.
Two were girls from Adams Central in Monroe, Ind., went to the hospital. Their band mates were allowed to take their jackets off, but, as guards, the two girls’ uniforms couldn’t be removed, said band President Marlene Vanhorn, a mom in the band. Other band members ended up shaky and stressed, too, she said. But she added, “They played well on the field — oh my gosh.”