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Irish band is ready to march in the Rose Parade

Rosemount March Band members practice Dec. 16 in the Irish Sports Dome.2 / 12
The Rosemount Marching Band will leave for Pasadena Dec. 27 for the Rose Parade.3 / 12
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When you’re a Minnesota marching band trying to prepare for a parade in the middle of a December cold snap, you take what opportunities you can.

That’s why the Rosemount High School band found itself on Monday afternoon last week marching circles on the artificial turf floor of the Irish Dome. For half an hour they marched north along one long wall of the dome, then made two right turns to head south. At the south end of the stadium they made a sharp angle to simulate the 109-degree turn they’ll have to navigate Jan. 1 when they appear in the Tournament of Roses Parade.

It might seem a little tedious now hearing the same song over and over, but when you’re about to perform for more than a million people live and millions more on television, you want to put your best foot forward. And judging from the feedback band directors gave during last week’s practice, you want to make sure the toes on that foot are pointed just so.

So, you practice your music and you practice your marching and, in the case of at least some band members, you work on your physical fitness.

At 5 ½ miles in length and around two hours in the California sun, the parade will be physically challenging for band members. The band’s horn section is expected to keep instruments held high the entire time.

White-suited parade volunteers have the power to pull any participant with no questions asked if they feel like they’re struggling. Band members will carry medical forms with them as they march.

“We’ve been taking many laps around the field,” said Tony Hanto, one of four drum majors for this year’s band. “We’re trying to build up our endurance to last the whole parade and look good the whole time. We’ve done a lot of laps, played through it a bunch. We just want to be overly prepared so once we’re there and it’s the crowd, it’s just second nature.”

The Irish band, which is scheduled to leave Dec. 27 for Pasadena, has been preparing for this trip since their selection for the parade was announced more than a year ago. Band directors flew to California for last year’s parade to get a sense of what to expect, and they’ve had a lot of conversations with the directors of bands that have been there before. They’ve also started to hear from programs that have been selected for next year’s parade.

“We’ve become friends with some of the top band programs in the country,” director Steve Olsen said.

In addition to the parade, the band will perform its field show — titled, fittingly, aRose — at a band festival held as part of the Tournament of Roses celebration.

The marching band will play a piece called Chorale & Shaker Dance by White Bear Lake composer John Zdechlik, but the music has been modified slightly. If you listen closely at the end you can hear a little bit of the Irish fight song.

Excitement for the trip has built through months of fundraising and practice. Now that the day is nearly here, band members are ready to go.

“I’m just excited for the entire trip, for marching in the parade and touring California, doing the band fest at the end of the show,” drum major Emily Brossart said. “There’s so much to be excited about.”

People find their excitement in different places, of course.

“I hear at the end of the parade route they give burgers to everyone in the parade,” drum major George Tangen said.

As last week’s final practice wrapped up, band director Leon Sieve tried to prepare students for what they are about to experience. One of the biggest things they have heard from other programs, he said, is that performers will experience a rush of adrenaline as they step to the start of the parade route and look out over bright television lights and more people lined up than they’ve ever seen in one place.

Band members know they have a special experience ahead of them.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance that not everybody gets to have,” Hanto said. “Everybody watches the Rose Parade New Year’s Day, but to actually be there, to be in it, that’s just amazing.”

The Irish marching band will be entry 57 out of 91 in the New Year’s Day parade, right between the floats from the Republic of Indonesia and the Harlem Globetrotters. The parade will be broadcast with commercial breaks on ABC and NBC and commercial-free on HGTV.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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