The Land O’Lakes High School band trailer was in desperate need of repair.
Not only was it wearing down after 25 years of continual use, but there was also a gaping hole in the trailer’s side panel — the result of a parking lot accident last October.
In simple terms, the beaten-up trailer was an eyesore and in dire need of a paint job.
While a new trailer would have been great, there wasn’t $6,000 in the school’s budget to buy one.
Riley Batts, in his first year instructing the band, found the situation a bit perplexing.
“I never expected my trailer to get into an accident the first year I’ve been teaching here,” Batts said with a chuckle. “I had no idea what to do. I wasn’t sure how or when it was going to get fixed.”
Then, a band member’s parent stepped in to help solve the problem.
John Womack — whose daughter, Morgan is a freshman alto saxophone player — offered to try to repair the decrepit trailer.
Initially, Womack and his father-in-law, John Jones, were planning to repair the side panel and add a fresh coat of paint.
But then, they went a step further.
“I just kind of started off with the idea of redoing it,” said Womack, a sergeant with the Tampa Police Department. “The idea was just to fix what it was, and try to repaint it. I wasn’t going to go and do nearly the stuff that we did.”
But, with several connections in the community, Womack was able to secure material and service donations from local businesses including Eddie’s Auto Paint and Body, Meredith Tire and Auto, and Sign Parrot.
Besides the priority repairs, other improvements were made, too. New lights were installed, both inside and outside the trailer. Carpet, shelving and netting for instruments also were installed in the trailer’s interior. A spare tire mount was built, too.
Though Womack helped coordinate the trailer’s massive overhaul, he is quick to deflect the credit to the three businesses.
“Most of it was done by the outside,” he said. “The only thing I did that was super intensive was we couldn’t find anything to take those old decals off, so we had to pressure-wash all of those decals off; I got like 17 hours of pressure-washing under me.”
The Land O’ Lakes band instructor was awestruck by all the improvements, calling them “mind-blowing.”
“I didn’t expect that. They said they were just going to take it in to get the side fixed from the crash,” said Batts, who oversees about 85 band members.
They also improved the trailer’s security, Batts said.
“They put new locks on everything, which is awesome, because anyone probably could’ve broken into the old one, and we have thousands of dollars’ worth of instruments on that (trailer).”
Batts is especially impressed by the trailer’s exterior, which features fresh, extravagant school decals to complement the surrounding sparkling blue coloring.
“The whole outside looks amazing. People seeing that on the road are going to be like, ‘Wow, Land O’ Lakes Band is awesome,’” she said.
Perhaps the most critical new feature is the interior lighting that was installed so band members, especially percussion students, can safely load heavy equipment after a nighttime event.
“After football games at midnight, these kids were putting away instruments and trying to play Tetris,” she said, comparing it to the video game about creating order. They were moving large instruments, without the benefit of lights, she said, forcing students to rely on the lights on their cellphones to maneuver the equipment.
When band students were first introduced to the revamped trailer, many thought the school had purchased a new one — considering its pristine appearance.
“It came out as a surprise, and my jaw literally dropped,” said sophomore Jacob Barber, who’s in the drum line. “It was just so nice.”
Phoebe Dunne, a sophomore snare player, said the refurbishments have made fellow members more eager to start the next marching season.
“I think it just shows off more of what the band is,” Dunne said. “We’re more cheerful.”
Sophomore marimba player Sydney Crino said band members appreciate the overhaul.
“It really means a lot to my section, because we have really big instruments, and we have to use the trailer; it’s so hard to load it when you can’t see what you’re doing or the walls are falling off and everything,” she said. “I really think it’s going to help with our school spirit, because we’re not going to be embarrassed about it anymore.”
Published April 13, 2016