Shared from the 1/17/2018 Woodman Edition eEdition

Air Academy’s marching band recalls fond memories of 129th Rose Parade


The Air Academy Kadet marching band performed in the 129th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year's Day. Photo courtesy of Melony Black

The extra practices are over. So is the non-stop fundraising and anticipation.

Now, all that’s left for Air Academy’s marching band to do is savor the memories made over a seven-day period that was culminated by its participation in the 129th Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day.

“Wow, there were a lot of moments,” said Stoney Black, the 15th-year director of bands at Air Academy. “There were several incredible moments. It was really something I’ll look at as a career highlight, just an amazing experience.”

Paige Langum recalled one moment, in particular.

“It was probably the parade itself,” said Langum, a senior and one of the band’s two drum majors. “It was so much bigger than I thought it was going to be. I’ve grown up watching the parade on TV and was familiar with the way it’s set up. When you’re out there, the audience is so much larger than you think.”

The Rose Parade highlighted a full week’s worth of activities in southern California.

First, the Kadets performed for Villa Esperanza, a nonprofit organization devoted to the care and education of a diverse disabled population of children, adults and seniors. Bandfest, presented by REMO over a three-day period, gave spectators a chance to see the field show from the parade’s participants, and the Kadets also showed their stuff in a parade review and a performance in Disneyland.

On New Year’s Eve, the crew got the day off to enjoy at Universal Studios, among other attractions, before finally taking part in the program’s second Rose Parade appearance. Air Academy made its Pasadena debut in 1992.

Then, the time was here. Finally.

“The biggest moment was when were in actually in the parade,” Black said. “I told the kids to do this, and I did it myself, but to look down that hill when you get there. There’s what they call the big TV corner when you turn from Orange (Grove Boulevard) onto Colorado (Boulevard). You just saw thousands and thousands of people, just cheering for the band. It was really a cool moment.”

That moment was more than a year in the making after the band, which actually applied in January 2016, learned of its acceptance nine months later as one of only 20 bands to march in the event. The Kadets would need the 14 months to properly prepare for the 5.5-mile route for the parade, not to mention the staggering $450,000 that would have to be raised to get the 192 band members there.

The band members sold mattresses, installed American flags on holidays, sold discount cards, parked cars at Air Force football games, sold concessions at other Academy events and mailed out postcards asking for donations.

And then there was the task of learning how to proceed, as a unit, on a long parade route in uniform in temperatures much warmer than the average Colorado day in January.

“The practice paid off,” Langum said. “It was a huge undertaking to learn marching in formation and the parade songs, on top of our regular marching routine. It’s so much different to get ready for a parade. When you’re turning, you turn as a line and not as an individual, moving as a cohesive unit.”

And as they participated, so much individual history was made; two students had parents who marched for Air Academy in 1992, while 10 students boarded an airplane for the first time and 38 saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time — up close and personal, thanks to a dinner cruise following the parade.

“As far as pageantry and marching bands, this is the big showcase,” Black said. “Everything aligned, and there are too many people to thank. This is definitely the longest marching season we’ve ever had, or can have. Now it’s on to concert season. In the band world, there is not really a break. Once you finish something, you’re a step behind on the next thing.”

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