One of the awesome things about Black college football is that the football battle on the field is matched by a battle between the two bands in the stands. This is especially true when the bands are two of the best in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), such as Grambling’s World-Famed Marching Band and Pine Bluff’s Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South. Not only did the bands battle back and forth during the course of the afternoon, but the various instrumental sections did as well, particularly Grambling’s Chocolate Thunder drumline and Pine Bluff’s K.R.A.N.K. drumline. The weather was beautiful as well, and Grambling’s much-improved football team had no trouble demolishing Pine Bluff, no small feat considering that last year’s Grambling team did not win a game.
I woke up later than I had intended to, and had to rush to get ready for the homecoming parade in Grambling. Although I was running late, I decided to eat breakfast at the IHOP in West Monroe, and then I drove the 30 miles into Ruston. I knew from previous years that there would be traffic gridlock from the Grambling exit on I-20, so I snuck around the back way through the Louisiana Tech campus onto Highway 80, and then up Stadium Drive into Grambling. I was later getting into Grambling than in previous years, so I had to pay for parking, but I was fortunate to find an inexpensive lot next to the Catholic church south of the campus.
As I walked up Main Street toward the Student Union, I encountered a large crowd of onlookers waiting for the parade to come. The wind was chilly despite the bright blue sky and sunshine, and most of the parade-watchers had jackets on. There was another large group gathered on North Main in the Village, and further up the street, on the other side of the railroad tracks was the beginning of the parade. Ducking into Reali-Tees, I purchased a new Grambling shirt and immediately put it over the one I had on, but I was still chilly. While I waited for the parade to get under way, I noticed a number of new businesses in the Village- a chicken and waffles place which had taken over the old Tasty Foods, an internet radio station, Bud’s Spuds and Spivey’s Fried Chicken, to name a few.
The world-famous Grambling Marching Tiger Band led the parade off, and soon things were underway, with kids scrambling out into the street to retrieve sweets thrown from the floats. Bands were there from Minden, Shreveport, Tallulah, Richwood and Ferriday, but this year’s parade seemed smaller and shorter than in previous years. Afterwards, I was out of time on my video camera, so I had to run and get my laptop to offload footage, which I did while chilling in the Starbucks at the Student Union. When I heard the thunder of drums, I went outside to encounter the GSU Tiger Band on its way to the stadium, so, after making a run to my car, I headed over to Robinson Stadium for the game.
Although the weather was sunny, and warm temperatures had been predicted, the wind was blowing and keeping things cool. Worse, the home side of the field was shaded, and got more so as the game progressed, but Grambling won easily over Mississippi Valley. When I walked out of the stadium, the informal car show was underway again this year. Cruising up and down RWE Jones Drive were candy-painted cars and trucks on rims, and some of them with trunks full of neon. Behind them came wreckers, apparently to tow those away who parked illegally, or perhaps who were pulled over with drugs, weapons or alcohol. Soon police cars with sirens screaming were racing down to the south end of the street, followed by an ambulance. I walked on back to the Student Union, where another large crowd, mostly students had gathered. Some of the cars that had been cruising Jones Drive were now headed down Main Street directly in front of the Union and dining hall.
Eventually, the GSU band paraded down the street on their way back to Dunbar Hall, but when they got to the space in front of the Union, they broke into a performance for the crowd gathered there. Further up on the Quadrangle, they paraded into the band room, and the drumline, Chocolate Thunder did just the slightest breakdown routine before they too disappeared into the building.
The homecoming concert was supposed to begin in a half hour or so, but I decided to go back to my car and head to Monroe for dinner. I headed to the Waterfront Grill on Bayou DeSiard, where I enjoyed a filet mignon dinner, and then I headed back over to Ruston to visit Dr. Reginald Owens, a former Grambling professor that now teaches at Tech. He and I spent some time catching up and talking, and then I headed back over to West Monroe, and, resisting the temptation to go to one of the club events, I returned to the hotel.