Parade trip coming up roses so far for Lakota West

This week, California. Thursday, the world.

Members of the Lakota West Marching Firebirds, in their first several days before Thursday’s performance in the 126th annual Rose Parade, have already displayed their award-winning musical talents on the Santa Monica Pier and at Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park.

The band on Tuesday participated in Bandfest, which highlighted the 18 bands selected to participate in the Pasadena, Calif., parade. That gave the Marching Firebirds the opportunity to present the 9-minute field show that got the band invited to the Rose Parade for the second time in seven years.

Band Director Greg Snyder said performing the field show for the last time this year at such a high-profile event affected many students, including one senior he spotted with a tear rolling down his cheek.

“It was incredible,” Snyder said of the show, which was performed to a nearly sell out crowd of approximately 3,000 people. “They couldn’t have been better.”

Guided by 29 adult chaperones and eight directors, the 240 students also toured Hollywood, took in a Medieval Times dinner show and enjoyed Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios.

Lakota West senior and trombone player Riley Hunter said the personal highlight of the trip so far was a Saturday tour of Hollywood, especially the Hollywood Walk of Fame

“You see it on TV … and that’s one thing, but to see it up close and in real life is really amazing,” Hunter said.

Kaetlin McVaugh, a Lakota West senior and Marching Firebirds field commander, said she enjoyed shopping with friends and strolling the beach in Santa Monica on Sunday. Performing on the Santa Monica Pier to the hearty cheers of passersby also left quite an impression.

Mike Aaron, a chaperone for the trip, said students also worked for approximately three hours Sunday to help piece together several Rose Parade floats, including nearly half of the 30,000 flowers on a $250,000 AirAsia float.

But students said everything they’ve experienced so far likely will pale in comparison to spending New Year’s Day performing an arrangement of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in front of thousands of cheering spectators and nearly 80 million people watching on television worldwide

“Everyone is a little nervous, but also really pumped and excited to be on TV and performing before everyone,” Hunter said. “We’ve really worked hard to get things just right … and we’re looking forward to performing.”

McVaugh, who performed with the band in the 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, said she and her fellow students are “so ready” to march down Colorado Boulevard and get another thrill of a lifetime.

‘We know the energy rush, the cheering and clapping and getting to see our parents,” she said. “It’s a feeling like no other. We’re so excited.”

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