FAIRMONT - Nearly 100 local students, 10 chaperones, 2 buses and 1 tour guide returned last week from a 10-day whirlwind tour of the East Coast.
Fairmont Area band students played five performances, took in national landmarks and did it all with class and style during a major heat wave, according to band director Kate Kallenbach.
The students went to New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. Their itinerary kept them going full speed, with chaperones urging students to sleep on the bus.
HOT TIME — Chaperone Tony Fink offers water to Fairmont Area High School marching band members as they prepare to step off during the Independence Day parade in Bristol, R.I.
They made it to every scheduled stop except one - they did not get to Ford's Theatre (where Lincoln was shot) in Washington, although they were able to add a short visit to St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.
They marched in a 2.5-mile parade in Bristol, R.I., on July 4 in 105 degree heat. Marlys Brummond, a chaperone and nurse on the trip, said students were encouraged to drink a lot of water starting the day before a performance.
The measures were much needed, as several bands in the parade ended up sending students to the hospital with heat exhaustion. Fairmont's students all made it to the end, according the Kallenbach.
"I was proud of our kids," she said. "That was a long round."
Kallenbach said the students represented their city and school exceptionally well.
"The kids were great," she said. "We got compliments everywhere we went."
And the compliments weren't just on their behavior.
Kallenbach said that during a jazz band performance at Trump Towers, listeners began swing dancing, and some asked where they could buy CDs of the music.
In addition to Trump Towers, the marching band played at the U.S. Capitol, the World War II memorial and at a restaurant.
While on the trip, students debuted their new uniforms, purchased over the course of the last school year. Kallenbach said they had no trouble with the outfits, which self-tailor using snaps, eliminating the time consuming ordeal of hemming with a needle and thread.
In addition to showcasing their musical abilities, the trip allowed students to explore a portion of our nation's history with tours of the Capitol and Arlington National Cemetery, as well as Ground Zero and Times Square in New York. They also saw a Broadway show, the Boston Pops and street performers - something many students had never seen before.
Kallenbach said each city produced favorites for the students, but their experience at Ground Zero was particularly powerful. While not all of the students remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001, all are aware of them.
"It is exciting for them to see (the sites) after what they have learned," Brummond said.
The tour allowed students to meet bands from other parts of the country, as well as some from Minnesota.
Kallenbach said they met one band from Minnesota that was on a performance-based tour. It was involved in many parades, but students slept on gym floors in host high schools and saw few sites. Kallenbach said she was glad her students were encouraged to tour the cities they were in and experience the history that transpired there.
"I am really glad we got to explore that part of the country," Kallenbach said. "Many kids won't make it back. I don't think they had a clue they were learning."
The marching band typically takes a field trip every three years, and Kallenbach will spend the next school year taking suggestions from students as to where they would like to go next. Students decide by vote where they would like to go and how long they are gone, typically between 8 and 10 days.