Every morning before class, Joel Thronson met his fellow drummers in the Norwalk High School band room to prepare for what happened Saturday.
This was it. The big day. The morning when Norwalk High School would compete with 24 other central Iowa schools for a rating in the Iowa State High School Marching Band Festival.
The 18-year-old senior slipped into place behind his fellow marchers, the drum strapped to his hips. All of their efforts - the song-and-march routine, the drills, the 7 a.m. practices - were about to unfold in five Danny Elfman songs.
"This is what we love," Thronson said. "Right now, I'm just mentally preparing."
The annual marching festival drew 25 central Iowa schools for the daytime contest, as well as 15 schools from as far away as Marion and Council Bluffs who joined the Waukee Marching Invitational Night Show.
A wall clock flashed the time: 10:42 a.m. Nick Menke, the Norwalk High School band director, stepped out in front of his group. Before him stood 125 young marchers, clad in Norwalk Warrior purple, clutching trombones and saxophones and clarinets.
"This is our moment," he said. "Do not let up now. Push! Push! Push!"
The marchers paraded north, looped around Waukee Middle School, and stopped just short of the chain-link gate to Waukee Stadium. Then, silence.
"We're on the field in 10 minutes," Menke said. "Think about your show. Keep your horns warm. Think about what we've been doing for two and a half months. This is the big one."
Peter Davidson, a Norwalk freshman, stood near the back with his drum. The 14-year-old said he has played in band since fifth grade, and he ate a 6 a.m. breakfast with other drummers to prepare for their show.
"We just have to focus right now, and not screw off," he said.
At 11:08 a.m., they marched to the north end zone, then stopped. Applause burst from the bleachers.
"Norwalk!" the announcer called. "The field is yours!"
They marched in step, starting with the "Beetlejuice" movie theme. Then came "Breakfast Machine" from "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure," followed by a tune from "Edward Scissorhands" and "Augustus Gloop" from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
When it was over, the crowd cheered, and a mother shouted, "Go, Norwalk!"
The band exited to the south, making way for the next school.