Pride of the Dakotas set to play in national title game


Skyler Jackson

The Pride of the Dakotas marching band performs at the Jackrabbit Pep Rally in Frisco, Texas.

Skyler Jackson, Co-Sports Editor (He/Him)

The Pride of the Dakotas marching band arrived in Frisco, Texas Saturday to perform in Sunday’s FCS national championship game at Toyota Stadium.

The band did one final run-through in Brookings Friday before hitting the road. When they got to Frisco Saturday afternoon, they performed at the Alumni Association Jackrabbit Pep Rally that evening.

Hundreds of Jackrabbit fans gathered as the Pride played all of the classics they’ll perform on Sunday.

“This was crazy,” Kevin Kessler, director of athletic bands for SDSU, said. “It was just fun to see so many people so enthusiastic and everybody’s so bought in and this was just a crazy atmosphere.”

After their final run-through in Brookings Friday, the Pride drove to Wichita, Kansas and spent the night. They completed the drive the next day and later rehearsed with North Dakota State’s marching band for a combined national anthem before their performance at the pep rally.

“It’s been a busy day ever since we got into Texas,” Kessler said.

The past month and a half have been eventful for the band, between marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in November and now playing in the national championship game.

Will Kessler, a junior trombone player, said it’s been a busy time for the band.

“It was kind of exhausting to put a lot of work in,” he said. “We had a nice long break over Christmas, so that gave us some time to recoup, but (we’re) getting right back into things before the semester starts.”

Will also noted the differences in preparation between Macy’s and Sunday’s game. While the Pride prepared for Macy’s for about three months, they didn’t have nearly that much time to prepare for Sunday.

“For this one, we knew we were going to be in the preliminary games, but we never knew how far we’d go until our football team won those games,” he said. “We didn’t meet up until (Friday) after break.”

Another difference is that not as many members went to Frisco as they did to New York. While 344 Pride members traveled to New York, only 280 were sent to Frisco.

“280 is still an incredible number,” Kevin said. “It’s a big band, 280 is still even larger than the band we had in 2021.”

Despite the recent busy schedule, the Pride is excited to play in front of Jackrabbit fans Sunday on national TV.

“I think we’ll definitely be bringing a lot of energy into the stadium,” Isaac Sousa, a freshman trumpet player, said. “We got a lot of fans that came out tonight to support the team and I think that’s just going to keep building and carrying over until we eventually go play.”