Members of the North Hagerstown Band Boosters have worked hard to keep the band together by giving moral support to to band members, fans said.
"You can't always be on top," said Deanna Rudisill.
Kunkle retired this year after working in local high school bands for 31 years.
Despite the changes at North Hagerstown this year, local marching band members and fans were as pumped up as ever at the championship Saturday.
Parents of North Hagerstown band members were up at dawn Saturday getting hot chocolate and food together for band members to take to the event. They loaded the food into cars and took off for Pikeside Middle School, a location near the stadium where the Hub Band was allowed to practice before the competition.
"There's a lot to be said for the band program in Washington County," said Rudisill.
Several of the North High fans in attendance Saturday at the 11th annual Freestate Spectacular were former members of the band.
Chris Lyons and Sandy Clipp were recounting their favorite moments in the band under the vivacious leadership of Kunkle. Lyons, who played trombone in the Hub Band before graduating in 1994, remembered going to the 1992 state championship at the University of Maryland in the pouring rain.
Organizers wanted the bands to just play their numbers and not march on the field because they feared the groups would tear up the drenched turf, said Lyons. Band members were pyched to play and wanted to march, Lyons said.
Lyons said from what he could recall, Kunkle had a few words with organizers and the bands were allowed to march.
"It was one of the better shows we did," said Lyons.
In 1995, the championship was a victim of pouring rain again, and it was cancelled. Lyons said he remembered Kunkle getting on a cell phone and arranging for the band to play that night in a band competition in Oakland. Band members loaded onto buses and parents followed them in their cars on the rainy three-hour trip to Oakland, where the band clinched first place in the competition.
"That was a trip. We were really into it," said Lyons.
Saturday's event provided a steady dose of sight and sound as 45 bands took turns peforming in Towson University's Minnegan Stadium. Fans wrapped in heavy clothes and sitting on heated seats watched the competition as busload after busload of bands streamed into the stadium, snarling traffic around the school.
It was an energized scene in the parking lot as kids in their different school colors chattered among themselves and zipped around their buses getting their equipment together for the show.
"We're not even in uniform yet. When we get to the field, the interest is really strong," said South Hagerstown High School Rebel Band member Jessica Horn.
The 107-member Rebel Band practiced three hours in Hagerstown Saturday before departing for Towson about 3 p.m.
Rebel Band member Philip Hinton said he was not expecting the band to win the competition, but he thinks the young group, made up mostly of sophomores and freshmen, has a lot of potential. At the same time, band director Tony Domenico is a knowledgeable leader who is determined to give the band what it needs to excel, said Hinton.
"In the years coming, I can see us winning one of these," said Hinton.
Williamsport Blue Band members have also been excited about the new leadership they have found in Ray Chaney. The group has been peforming pieces from "Gettysburg" this year and band members have been decked out in Civil War attire.
"We're really excited because we have worked hard on practices this week," said drum major Erin Grossnickle.