ORANGE CITY, Iowa | Ava Grossmann was crowned queen of the 2016 Orange City Tulip Festival last Monday.

On Saturday, she took a bow, one of a select few four-time all-state musicians performing in the 69th Annual Iowa High School Music Association All-State Music Festival at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.

"It was a busy week," Grossmann said on Monday.

Same goes for Jaren Brue, Grossmann's senior classmate at Unity Christian High School in Orange City, Iowa. Brue took a break from hockey practice last week -- he's a forward on the Sioux Center Storm -- to board the bus and head south for his fourth straight All-State Music Festival.

"All-State for me every year is a musical highlight," Brue said. "This year was so special, because it was my last."

The concert, which involves the top prep musicians and singers in Iowa, will be broadcast at 7 p.m. Thursday and rebroadcast at 5:30 p.m. Sunday on Iowa Public Television, a holiday weekend staple for the network and thousands of musical families across the state.

Some 142 Northwest Iowa high schoolers earned roles in the 2015 performance, playing in the band or the orchestra, or singing in the choir. East High School paced Northwest Iowa efforts with 23 all-staters. North High, Spencer High and Unity each had 11 students included.

At Unity, the total represented an all-time high, at least in recent history. It required something special for the trip: a bus.

"Usually it's just a van," said Grossmann, daughter of Jonathan and Glenda Grossmann. "It's was neat to have to take a bus."

It meant even more to Grossmann because her younger brother, Nick Grossmann, earned a spot in the All-State Band. He's a freshman who plays bass. Like big sister, he may eye a chance to qualify four times, rare air for a high school musician.

"My older sister, Kinza (Brue), made all-state three years on the violin," Jaren Brue said of his sister, a 2014 Unity graduate. "She did not make it her freshman year."

Jaren Brue attended his first All-State Music Festival as an eighth-grader, intent on sharpening his cello skills enough to earn a spot in the All-State Orchestra at some point. It happened sooner, not later, with a bid in 2012.

"It takes a lot of practice, repetition on the excerpts," said the son of Ethan and Donna Brue. "I try to practice 30 to 60 minutes per day."

Like classmate Grossman, Brue had a sibling along on Saturday. Brother Rylan Brue, a sophomore, sang in the All-State Choir. Their mother, he said, played piano at this concert as a senior at Pella Christian High School in 1986.

Organizers note each four-time qualifier by reading his or her name as they stand. The recognition -- and the applause -- can become a moment frozen in time for these students.

"It's crazy because it's such a huge place and you hear your name and you know it's your last time," Ava Grossmann said. "It's a lot of fun, but it's also kind of sad, knowing it's your last."

All the work involved in learning difficult music, going through the excerpts, making it through another rigorous audition in the fall at Storm Lake High School in Storm Lake, Iowa, came into focus for Jaren Brue as he stood with his cello, soaking up the cheers.

"To hear your name announced at Iowa State, you realize what a blessing and honor it is, to experience the beauty of this event," he said.

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