By mid-afternoon on Saturday, the Ralston High School Performing Arts Centre was so full that emcees Jonathan Berger and Mia McAleer, both 2012 Ralston High grads, had to make an announcement that students from schools who were not currently performing had to vacate their seats for parents and other paying guests.
“There’s a long line waiting to get in,” Berger said. “The performances are showing on the televisions in the homerooms and cafeteria, so other show choirs can watch there.”
The line snaking around the theater toward the cafeteria doors was waiting to see 18 area show choirs perform in Ralston High’s second edition of Ramageddon, a show choir competition that ran about 14 hours long and featured 26 performances.
Ramageddon was born in 2012 and took a one-year hiatus due to extenuating circumstances. Back and bigger than before, those organizing and running the event hope to make it a yearly tradition for Midwest show choirs.
Amber Scott, a Ralston senior, helped with Ramageddon the first time around and was back to help again this year.
“The first time out, we were testing things out, and now it runs a lot smoother,” she said. “There are a lot more groups this year, too.”
Ramageddon 2014 featured five more choirs than Ramageddon 2012, with participants coming from as far away as Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa.
That travel time was not wasted on Jake Kochanowicz, a sophomore in Ralston’s varsity show choir, Rush.
“You don’t realize how big of a deal this competition is until you see schools coming from Minnesota,” he said. “I was impressed with how far people come.”
Kochanowicz spent part of his day helping to film show choirs for DVDs that would be available for sale, and he spent the rest of the time getting water for groups to drink before and after performing.
“I filled water cups for about four hours,” he said. “It was at least 60 cups every 20 minutes.”
Emory Darling, a junior who plays bass and guitar for both Rush and Ralston’s prep group, Runway, also spent part of his day filling water backstage. His duties further included moving decorations and running other errands backstage.
“I’ve been here since 6:30 this morning,” he said. “I’ve gotten to see a couple groups on TV, but I’ve been pretty busy. It’s a lot of work to host. It takes a lot more than you think. It really makes me appreciate all the competitions we go to.”
Increased appreciation was one of the common themes for the day.
Allie Nielsen, a junior in her second year as a Rush member, said she spent the day doing whatever odd jobs choir director Ryan Pivonka needed.
“I have a better appreciation for how much work goes into competitions,” she said over her dinner break. “I’ve been here since 7 a.m. and I’ll probably be here until midnight.”
Nielsen said one of the best things she got to do backstage was help out in the critique room, where groups who have just performed sit down with the event’s judges to get feedback.
“It’s a good way to learn things that can make our group better, too,” she said.
Sophomore Jade Adler also used the day as a learning experience. In addition to decorating Gretna’s homeroom, she assisted in running the lights.
“It’s really cool to get to learn how to run the lights,” she said. “It’s a bit more stressful to be the ones hosting the competition instead of one of the groups going to it, though. You have to think about other teams instead of just your own.”
Morgan Collins, a freshman in Runway, was particularly attuned to other schools’ needs. As room host for Papillion-La Vista’s girls group, Heart and Soul, Collins came in on Friday night from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. to decorate the group’s homeroom.
On Saturday, Collins arrived at 7:30 a.m. and spent the day checking up on her group and walking them to warm-ups, their performance and their critique.
“You spend the whole day doing stuff for everyone else, not just your own group,” he said. “We don’t have to worry about competing, since we’re just performing as an exhibition.”
Yes, in addition to playing host all day, Rush and Runway also performed for all those assembled, albeit not as part of the competition. (It’s bad form as hosts.)
Emcee McAleer said she’d already seen Rush’s set twice, but she was excited to see it again and see how they had improved since the last viewing.
A four-year show choir member in her day – three in Rush and one in Runway – McAleer is a relative expert in show-choiring. In her present life, however, her focus is on her studies at Iowa State as a kinesiology major going into physical education.
McAleer was drawn back to Ralston by her mother, Joanna, the event’s primary organizer, and by the event itself.
“I was an emcee the first time with Mr. (Cris) Fishback,” she said. “It was really fun. Jonathan (Berger) got pulled in by a Facebook message from (RHS show choir director Ryan) Pivonka.”
The pair helped groups backstage to keep the show running smoothly and announced the groups onstage.
“We don’t know any jokes,” McAleer said.
“We’re definitely emcees and not entertainment,” Berger added. Berger is a sophomore mechanical engineering major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, aiming to go into nuclear propulsion work for the Navy. Carlos Silva, a 2011 Ralston alum, was also a four-year show choir vet. Silva was recruited by McAleer via Facebook.
“I helped with the last Ramageddon, too,” he said. “Seeing how much work and effort was needed for the event the first time, I was more than happy to help.”
Silva spent Saturday guarding the theater doors during performances and signaling the emcees when the judges were ready for another performance.
“Both jobs let me see the shows, which is what I wanted,” Silva said.
Scott said she caught shows whenever she could, on the televisions or in the theater, but she spent most of her day running around, helping the group she was hosting.
Although Scott put in plenty of work the day of, arriving at 6:30 a.m., and the night before, her work for Ramageddon began earlier in the week. Rush set up risers for the event and put up signage to make sure audience members would know where and when everything was happening. Her stagecraft class also helped clear the stage to get it prepared for the shows.
Joanna McAleer’s work began long before that, back in September. Committees started meeting in the fall to prepare for Ramageddon, working off of guidelines established the first go-round. The head organizer role fell to Joanna, whose son Ryan is a sophomore in Rush, as she was one of the few parents still involved who was involved in the original Ramageddon.
The committees got together advertisers, concessions, photographers and donations for the event. More than 75 alumni and parent volunteers ran concessions, admissions, financial transactions and security the day of the competition.
“This event was a great fundraiser for the groups, and hopefully it gets to the point where we don’t have to do other fundraisers,” she said. “I would love for this to be an annual event. It was very exciting to be in on the ground floor of it, and it was nice it was so successful.”
Junior Rush member Preston Tangeman agreed.
“I think we’re setting the basis for a tradition,” he said. “We’re creating the footsteps people will follow in.”