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Suwanee concert kicks off holiday weekend

Staff photo: Keith Farner Josh Byrd, the director of bands at the University of West Georgia, conducts the University of West Georgia Concert Band on Friday night in Suwanee during the city's annual Memorial Day weekend celebration.

Staff photo: Keith Farner Josh Byrd, the director of bands at the University of West Georgia, conducts the University of West Georgia Concert Band on Friday night in Suwanee during the city's annual Memorial Day weekend celebration.

SUWANEE -- With two budding musicians in the family, the Richardson family found an ideal destination to kick off their Memorial Day weekend.

Ben Richardson, and his wife Annielle brought their daughters Jada and Kyla to Town Center Park in Suwanee on Friday night for two reasons. A celebration was in order to bid farewell to another school year, and look ahead to the third grade and fifth grade this fall at Settles Bridge Elementary. Jada, the older sister, and Kyla are each getting involved with music.

"(It's) a good way to spend some family time over the holiday weekend," Ben Richardson said. "The kids are just now getting involved and playing instruments, so they wanted to come out here and see the older kids."

The older kids were members of the University of West Georgia Concert Band, who performed a free concert as part of Suwanee's annual Memorial Day weekend celebration in front of a crowd of several hundred people. The band was made up of the most advanced woodwind, brass and percussion players at West Georgia and conducted by director of bands Josh Byrd.

It played a variety of popular songs, from "America the Beautiful," to "The Raiders March" and "God Bless America."

The Silver Wings parachute team from Fort Benning, who usually perform, didn't appear because of federal sequestration budget cuts.

That was a disappointment for Don Shoemaker of Suwanee, who also noticed a drop in attendance at the event and said it's usually difficult to find a seat. There were about 1,000 people at last year's concert.

"I've been coming to this for many years, and it's like a tradition," Shoemaker said. "Honoring our soldiers, our freedom."

Many of the people who attended waved miniature American flags and dressed in red, white and blue.

Bruce Anderson, a Lawrenceville resident, has made the Suwanee concert an annual destination each Memorial Day weekend. It's a way for him to kick off a weekend that also includes a cookout.

"You know that, that's a given," he said with a chuckle.