Though some aspects of the American Folk Festival change each year, it always starts off the same – with a parade. A variety of bands from all over the country have headed up that parade.But this year, organizers decided to turn to some hometown talent.And they didn’t have to look any farther than the University of Maine.Band Director Christopher White says “We went to Peabody’s 200th anniversary a number of years back and marched in the big parade there, we do the Riverfest parade in Old Town. Caribou is having their 150th anniversary celebration and invited us to perform up there.”With credentials like that and talent like this, it was a natural for Folk Festival organizers to invite director Christopher White and the Pride of Maine Black Bear Marching Band to lead this year’s opening night parade. White says “It’s a local tradition, however, it’s the American Folk Festival. It’s artists from all over the nation and for that matter, this hemisphere and possibly even the world that come to this. And to be a local group and be invited to it, it’s an honor and we’re thrilled.”The students are certainly use to playing for a field full of football fans – but Folk Festival fans?Drum major Bob Young, who’ll lead the Pied Piper experience, says they’re ready for it.”We thrive to have people at the events that we are a part of. We love it when the game’s sold out and there’s 20-thousand people there screaming.”The Folk Festival parade will be one of the biggest off-campus events for the band – a little nerve-wracking, especially for newcomers, like Katie Eaton.”They have a lot of fun doing what they do and they love performing for people. And where I went to high school, that’s what we did, too. So it’s a bigger part of what we did then and I hope people realize how we’re having fun and I hope they have fun seeing us.”Tenor saxaphone player Malory Petersen says “It’s a lot of work for us to do this. We’re here all week practicing early in the morning to late at night. And it’s a lot of work but we have so much fun doing it.”White says he hopes the Pride’s performance will be a highlight for the band and even more so for festival goers.”I think they’re going see kids that just love to perform. The real reason they belong to the band is not because they enjoy practicing in the hot sun. That part is the least enjoyable of it but it’s to perform in front of people who appreciate what they do. And I think what you’ll see is a group of kids out there and do what they do and the audience will respond, which will give them more energy and I think it will feed on itself – become a real fun event for them.”The parade steps off at 6:45 p.m. Friday. And if you miss the Pride of Maine Band, you can check them out Saturday. They’ll perform at 4:15 p.m. in the children’s area.And they’ll head up Saturday night’s parade, starting at 6:45 p.m.