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Next stop for WHS band: Hollywood

The WHS award-winning color guard, shown during an Oct. 2 event in Algona, Iowa, will brighten the parade route at the 86th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade next Sunday. (Special to The Globe)1 / 2
A few of the award-winning color guard members of the WHS band are shown in this photo from October's Sioux Falls, S.D. Festival of Bands. (Special to The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — Two years of planning and preparation will culminate next week when the “Spirit of Worthington” Trojan Marching Band performs at the 86th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade on Sunday, Nov. 26.

Preceding that gig, which will be nationally televised on Dec. 15 and 22, is a Friday appearance at Disneyland.

“So many people have helped us get to this point,” said Jon Loy, director of the Worthington High School (WHS) band since 2006.

“For most of the 135 kids who are taking the trip, this will be an experience of a lifetime,” he added. “And being on a national stage like this is something many of the students are only now beginning to realize is a truly big deal.”

The Trojans will be one of 12 featured marching bands in next Sunday’s legendary parade, along with groups from Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, California and New Mexico.

Having spent the 2016 and 2017 competitive parade season honing their “Hooray for Hollywood!” show, and collecting first place or parade grand champion trophies at every stop this fall, the band is ready to demonstrate its skill on the very streets that inspired their current moves and music.

“Our national appearance in Hollywood, Calif., will sum up the past two years,” said Loy. “It’s been really fabulous, and quite a journey.”

Yet in many ways, that journey is only beginning.

Shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday, the 135 students and 55 band staff, parent chaperones and family “tag-alongs” participating will board four Reading Bus Lines coaches in the WHS parking lot, embarking on a 1,680-mile drive westward that’s expected to last approximately 31 hours (stops included).

A Smith Trucking semi, loaded today with the band’s instruments and other gear, will precede the caravan to the Long Beach, Calif., hotel that is the group’s destination and will be their base until they head for home Nov. 27.

“Reading Bus Lines does a great job of planning enough stops at the right points along the route,” praised Loy. “This is a wonderful way for the kids to see parts of the western United States as they travel to California.

“The different sites and topography they’ll experience are things most of them have only read about or seen in photos, so there is an educational piece that goes well beyond the musical page as their geographical, cultural and historical horizons will be broadened.”

Loy is a veteran of such tours. Since the start of his tenure in Worthington, he has taken his ensembles twice to perform at the Chicago McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (in 2008 and 2011) and to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., over the 2014-15 New Year’s holiday.  

“Those were successful trips, and WHS kids are good travelers,” he assured.

“This group has been traveling together nearly every weekend since school started for competitions, and along with the band staff and parent chaperones, everyone knows what it takes to function effectively as a large entity.”

One parent chaperone who can vouch for that is Kathy Schuck.

Schuck’s son, Nathan, is a senior trumpeter. Schuck and her husband Duane previously served as chaperones on the Florida trip, when both Nathan and his older sister Laura were in the band, and they’re eagerly anticipating their roles as chaperones to California, as well.

“The kids are very well-mannered and well-behaved,” said Schuck. “They’re polite to the adults and wear the mantle of community representation well.”

Having weathered the earlier band tour positively, Schuck admits she’s gathered a few tricks for bus ride endurance.

“A good pillow is important, for one thing,” she laughed.

She also recognizes the value inherent in seeing other parts of the country for the teenagers involved.

“We live in a sheltered area here in southwest Minnesota, and it’s nice they get to experience other places in the ‘real’ world,” Schuck mentioned.

With a full and fun itinerary upon arrival in California, the students will see many Los Angeles highlights, such as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Santa Monica pier, Universal Studios, Griffith Observatory, the La Brea Tar Pits and the chance to view the brand-new Disney movie “Coco” at El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.

“Fundraising efforts began over a year ago, and many people in the community contributed by buying something from the students — frozen cinnamon rolls, W-2’s meat products, Nordic Ware pans or gourmet cheesecakes — when they were asked,” said Loy.

“And all the major service organizations in town really stepped up to make this possible,” he added. “We’ve had so much support and encouragement to help this band represent Worthington in the best possible fashion, and it’s a thrill to be one of the 12 marching bands from across the nation that will participate in this historic parade.”

Schuck easily recalls the applause and positive impressions the marching Trojans garnered in Florida, and, like Loy, she is confident they will also wow the California crowds — as well as a national television audience.

Credited Loy, “These students have proven themselves to be great musical ambassadors both on and off the parade route all season long, and I know they will make Worthington proud in California.”

Opportunities to see the WHS Trojan Marching Band’s tour either live or on national broadcasts: go to www.facebook.com/isd518 at 2:45 p.m. Friday (Disneyland Parade) and Sunday, Nov. 26, at approximately 9:30 p.m. (Hollywood Christmas Parade). National broadcasts of the entire Hollywood Christmas Parade are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15 on The CW network, and 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22 on the Hallmark Channel and the AFN network. For more information, visit thehollywoodchristmasparade.org/spirit-of-worthington-trojan-marching-band.

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