Native son to appear in Saturday's Rose Parade
PASADENA, Calif. -- Paul Summers LaRoche anticipates playing for his largest audience ever on Saturday morning. During the Tournament of Roses Parade -- viewed by an estimated 700,000 people along the parade route as well as a TV audience of 52 million Americans and additional viewers in 220 countries around the world -- his band, Brulé, will be featured on the "One Nation" float sponsored by RFD-TV.
"That's kind of scary," said Paul during a brief phone interview from Pasadena earlier this week. "It didn't hit me until somebody said there are millions of people around the world who watch it. That's a pretty big audience -- our largest audience."
Paul was adopted at birth and grew up in Worthington as Paul Summers. He began performing at age 15 and played in popular music bands in the area. At one time he owned a club, Paul's Place, on the northwest edge of Worthington, and later became a recording technician. After the death of his adoptive parents, Paul discovered he had been adopted from the Lower Brule Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and in 1993, he was reunited with his biological Lakota family.
Learning about his cultural heritage prompted Paul to begin performing once again, and he formed Brulé with a new focus on Native American music. With wife Kathy Summers as manager/promoter, Paul is joined in Brulé by their daughter Nicole on flute and son Shane on guitar -- all three enrolled members of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. Other current band members are percussionist Vlassis Pergakis and drummer Kurt Olson, as well as traditional dancers who are part of the elaborate stage production. Brulé is now one of the top-selling Native American performing groups and has earned seven Native American Music Awards.
"But I still consider myself a kid from Worthington who got lucky along the way," Paul emphasized.
More than two years ago, Paul and Brulé entered into a relationship with RFD-TV. Paul has hosted an RFD-TV program, "Hidden Heritage," and the band is based at the RFD-TV Theatre in Branson, Mo.
"So many things have come out of our relationship with RFD-TV," said Paul. "It's been a great collaboration, and (the Rose Parade appearance) is a byproduct of this relationship."
The "One Nation" float, designed and built by Phoenix decorating, pays tribute to Native American culture. Seventy-five feet long, its focal point is a 35-foot "fancy dancer," exhibiting a contemporary style of Native American dance used in the tribal pow-wow circuit.
Brulé will play live -- accompanied by fancy and traditional dancers in authentic garb -- on the float as it traverses the 5½-mile route down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena.
"We're feeling really excited about it, but there's also a little apprehension. We want to make sure it looks good and sounds good -- we want the audio to sound good," Paul said, adding that the performing space on the float will also be tight. "But we've done enough small venues, so that shouldn't be a problem."
The parade will be broadcast live on RFD-TV at 10 a.m. and also be carried live or on tape delay by ABC, NBC, HGTV and Univision.
Because it is two hours earlier in California, the Brulé crew has an early wake-up call for Saturday morning.
"We have to be there at 3:30 a.m.," Paul shared. "That puts a damper on any New Year's Eve celebrating."
As he anticipated what it will be like to be part of one of the most famous parades in the world, Paul said he wanted to "sit back and really appreciate what is happening here."
"I'm proud to be here and represent our culture," he said. The "One Nation" theme fits with our mission of bridging the gap between the cultures and also of bringing the tribes together. There is no central organization for Native American tribes. Hopefully it sends a signal out about unity and reconciliation and healing around the planet."