FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — The Viking Band took off Thursday morning for Wake Forest University in North Carolina. The 152-student group is the only Okaloosa County School in the regional phase of band performances.

The band will perform its ‘A New Dawn’ show on Saturday, Oct. 15. This is the second year in a row the Viking Band has been selected to compete in Bands of America.

“This is a big deal,” said Debbie Lenton, Viking Band Association President. “There are regional competitions throughout the country, and as many as 20-to-25 bands compete at each venue all throughout this time of year. We have been at this all summer long and all the way up until now. So this is what we’ve trained for.”

Senior Drum Major Carolyn Jowers

In 2021, Fort Walton Beach high school was just half a rating point away from making the finals leading to the national competition held in Indianapolis. Senior Drum Major Carolyn Jowers said this year, they are ready for redemption.

“I’m really excited, this is Senior year so it’s all coming together and it’s the last run,” said Jowers.

The Viking Band is led by Fort Walton Beach High School alumni band director Derek Fields and assistant director Alissa Kanocz. Kanocz said she performed as a Viking in Bands of America back in 2009 and she is excited for the students to have this experience.

“We just want them to have a blast,” said Kanocz. “They’ve been working so hard since June on this music and it really shows in their performance. And I think the students are excited. Parents, band directors we’re all excited for them to perform at this event.”

The band took off from the school in four charter buses with chaperones and staff along for the ride. A send-off was held on campus for students to cheer the Vikings to victory.

“This band is the only band in the state of Florida that has received 54 straight superior ratings for the marching band performance assessments,” said Lenton. “So we are considered to be a fantastic organization, music organization and Okaloosa County really rallies around their music organizations.”

Gulf Port High School in Miss. is the only other school in the WKRG News 5 viewing area headed to regional competitions this weekend.