Franklin Regional returns to Pasadena for Tournament of Roses Parade
When the Franklin Regional Panther Marching Band is part of a local parade, the route is relatively short, and they might play the same song a few times.
Last weekend? Try 5.5 miles and 56 repetitions of Katrina and the Waves' 1983 hit “Walking on Sunshine” as the band marched for the second time in five years at the 127th annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
“Everyone stepped up, and some of the people who lacked focus really pulled together,” said senior Ian Hatfield, who plays trombone.
The 210-member group began working toward the performance at its summer band camp but started focusing on it more heavily during the past two months, senior percussionist Luke Myers said.
The band held a dress rehearsal at the 2015 Murrysville Halloween parade, when they extended their march to the same 5.5 miles as the Pasadena parade route.
“Now that we're home, several students told me they found the Halloween parade more grueling because the parade route in Pasadena is level, and there's a large crowd all along the way” — estimated at about 1 million spectators — “to cheer the band the entire distance,” said band director Kevin Pollock.
Myers said he couldn't believe how many turned out for the parade.
“I was surprised by the amount of people there,” said Myers, 17. “The whole way (down the parade route), there were multiple grandstands, and the whole parade line was packed. It was just a lot of fun.”
The band also was taken by surprise when several parade floats broke down.
“As if the parade wasn't long enough,” Hatfield said. “We walked around the first one, but we got stuck behind another one that had to be towed.”
Band members had a chance to watch some of the floats being constructed and were able to board and tour the Queen Mary, a floating hotel aboard the iconic 1936 ocean liner moored in Long Beach, Calif.
During the trip, Hatfield discovered that his grandfather had emigrated from England aboard the Queen Mary when it was a working ship.
They also took a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood, “but unfortunately, (the) Harry Potter (section) doesn't open until the spring,” said senior drum major Katja Kochvar, 17.
One of Kochvar's favorite moments was watching the sun set over the Santa Monica pier.
“It was very beautiful,” she said.
Trumpet player Hannah Flick, 13, of Murrysville was among a group of eight underclassmen to make the trip. The eighth-grader had a chance to march with the band in the parade and said it was an amazing experience.
“The big challenge (was) the early wake-up calls, and the hard working hours that everybody put in to achieve success,” Flick said.
Pollock said it's an honor to be invited to what parade organizers refer to as “the Super Bowl of bands.”
“That we've been invited twice says a lot about our talented students and the quality of our band program,” he said.
Myers' favorite part of the trip was the Rose Bowl Bandfest, during which the band performed its 1980s-themed halftime show for a packed crowd at Pasadena City College.
“It's awesome, because it's not like a football crowd,” Hatfield said. “Everyone's there to see the bands.”
“It was just a really energetic crowd,” he said.
Junior Samantha Robinson, 16, who is a member of the band's majorette group, said the parade was tiring but inspiring.
“When I got tired, I just listened to the cheers from the crowd and thought of how far we've come and how much work we put into it, and it helped me keep pushing through,” she said.
For Hatfield, the trip was a great experience as he prepares to graduate.
“Being a senior, it really meant a lot to me,” he said.
The trip cost about $1,800 per student, Pollock said, and students spent more than a year pursuing numerous fundraisers.
“They've come back with lifetime memories that not every high school band student is so fortunate to know,” Pollock said. “That makes it all worthwhile.”
Patrick Varine is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at 724-850-2862 or firstname.lastname@example.org.