Our students all arrived at the high school for a briefing before loading school buses, which took them to our staging area. The 8th Grade Band met us at this location and it took a little bit of time to get the band in formation. Then, it was simply a matter of waiting for the start of the parade. There was cheerful conversation all around. Those students who had never done this were feeling a bit anxious and nervous. Although they knew what to expect, this was the real thing. There was an audience. Everyone was determined to do their job well.
At the appointed time, the band moved forward, led by the Jenison Marching Band banner and the color guard. In the middle of the band the battery kept time and signaled the other members when it was time to play. This method works very well and it sounds really impressive to those watching the procession. As a spectator, I always eagerly awaited the band so I could catch that quick glimpse of my student, looking sharp and trying not to be too distracted. Walking with them revealed to me how difficult it is to keep from being distracted. This makes it hard to stay in formation. With the band compacting and expanding like an accordion, the side-to-side lines tend to get a little out of alignment from time to time. Also, with all of the volunteer parents moving through the ranks asking if anyone needs a drink (like I was doing), there’s always a little accommodating being done by the marchers. I’ll tell you right now, it’s not super easy trying to squirt water into the mouth of a moving marcher. Sometimes they get a bunch on their uniform or somewhere on their face. Hopefully not up their nose or in their eyes, but it happens.
We were very blessed this year with a mild temperature and partly cloudy sky. Although we missed the roar of the fighter planes passing overhead, the conditions allowed our students to maintain some of their energy and stamina. It’s a very long walk and in the pressing heat, it can be exhausting. At the end of the parade route is Meijer, but this isn’t the end of the band’s responsibilities. After a short break, and the 8th Grade students are excused, they begin to move into the store, which basically prevents anyone from going in or out for several minutes. They split up, with a row going up the stairs to the balcony and two rows staying on the floor below. Most people forget there is a balcony so this grabs the attention from those further away from the cash registers. Mr. Zamborsky led the musically talented group in a few songs. If anyone didn’t notice them before, they sure do now! A lot of people jump because the band is able to play fairly loud and it can be startling. This is always fun to watch because of the utter surprise of store patrons.
Following this performance, the band mingles outside under the shade provided of the building. Meijer is generous in donating water to us so our students can rehydrate and we greatly appreciate it. After a little while, the band boards the buses and goes to the Georgetown Cemetery for a Memorial Day ceremony there. Here, they get to line up under the shade of giant trees, but while most other people get to sit, they must remain standing at attention. By this point, other than the bus rides, they have not been able to sit for several hours.
The ceremony at the Cemetery is not lengthy but it is much more solemn than the parade. It consists of the presentation of colors, a tribute to the freedoms our military has fought so hard for, and a moment of silence for those who sacrificed so much. Our band plays a few more pieces of music throughout this ceremony. Being among the shade and the breeze combined with hearing the rustle of the trees causes everyone to relax a little. It is important for students to remember to not lock their legs in place, because this is the time where the exhaustion of the parade catches up. There are usually a few students who do lock their legs, become light headed, and need to sit on the ground for a bit of time. Our volunteer staff is always ready and watching for these situations. Once this ceremony ends, the band returns to the high school, turns in their uniform, and heads home.
They did a fantastic job this year. All of them – including the 8th Grade! It was a great experience for me to be able to participate in the parade route. We have a wonderful community here and it shows! Although summer is near, it still stirs a little bit of excitement because band season is coming!