Ridgeland High School band members are going to New York in November for the New York City Veterans Day Parade - the largest and oldest parade of its kind in the nation, drawing up to half a million spectators and 50,000 participants.
Rick Chambers, the band director, said it's all part of a four-year plan to get the band more recognition. He said when he applied in April to the parade, he had no idea whether they'd be accepted.
"We were testing the waters," he said.
Melinda Marinoff, the marching band and youth sponsor for the Veterans Day Parade, said very few bands are rejected from participating. This year, 12 bands will participate. One of the most important things parade sponsors look for in bands that apply is a commitment to honoring veterans.
"They could go to a plethora of places," Marinoff said. "But there are a handful every year, 10-12 bands, that really want to teach the kids the meaning of honoring and celebrating service and raising the bar on patriotism."
Chambers said he thought the band would be going in 2015 to the parade, but parade representatives called and asked if they could come this year.
The news came just after the band returned from a trip to the Bahamas, so Chambers said a poll of students was taken before committing to another costly trip.
"We solicited them first, and then it was like, 'Psh, yes, we want to go," he said of the students.
One obstacle has been raising enough money to go on the trip. Each of the 125 members is required to submit two payments of $250 and one of $350 before they leave, and then pay off another $845 after the trip. The band has set up several fundraisers in response, including everything from selling lollipops at school, to a benefit motorcycle ride, taking place on Sept. 20. Ten band members have opted out of the trip for various reasons.
Katie Owens, a senior at Ridgeland and the first lieutenant and front line ensemble captain for the band, said she's excited to go to New York.
"Most of us have never been that far out of Georgia," she said.
Sophomore and drum major Miriam Pitts echoed the sentiment.
"I've wanted to go to New York like, forever," she said. "It's exciting that we all get to go and experience it all together for the first time."
The band will perform in the parade on Nov. 11, and will be in New York City from Nov. 8 to Nov. 12.
Contact staff writer Hannah Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6731.