CLEVELAND, Tenn.-Walker Valley High School's band and chorus got a hand-delivered invitation Thursday to take part in the Jan. 1, 2013, New Year's Day parade in Westminster, London.
The invitation was delivered by Counselor Duncan Sandys, immediate past lord mayor of Westminster and great-grandson of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
It will be the fourth trip to London for the band and the third for the chorus.
"The part you play is absolutely crucial to the success of the parade," Sandys told students. "The American contingents bring a lot of color and music to the parade. I like to think, given the fact I am very fond of this nation, that you bring a piece of America to the streets of London."
The Walker Valley High School band has been appearing in the parade and taking part in a week of tours and festivities every three years, band director Alan Hunt said.
"That allows kids who might not be able to make the trip as freshmen to still go as seniors," he said. "The early announcement allows families time to plan for it and save the money, too."
The county school board must approve the trip.
The Walker Valley contingent averages 200 to 300 people, counting chaperones, families, some alumni and the students.
Parade executive director Bob Bone told students the 2013 parade will come as London is in the afterglow of the 2012 Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee of the queen, celebrating 60 years since her coronation. The parade was watched by 600,000 spectators last year and a worldwide television audience, Bone said.
The local visit by Sandys and Bone was part of a national trip to invite American bands to take part in the parade.
Sandys toured Walker Valley with Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, county school board Chairman Troy Weathers, Principal Danny Coggin, Hunt and others. They visited several classrooms, listened to student musicians and stayed for lunch.
"When most people say they are going to London what they really mean is they are going to Westminster," Sandys told students. That's where "there will be a small wedding you may have heard about," Sandys said, referring to the planned nuptials of Prince William, the queen's grandson, and Kate Middleton.
Explaining the office of lord mayor, or first citizen, Sandys said, "It's a one-year term and one is selected by one's peers on the City Council."
As lord mayor, he said, "you are the top dog" except for the queen.