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Irish band shines in spotlight

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The Rosemount High School Marching Band participated in the Tournament of Roses Parade Jan. 1.2 / 4
The band performs as part of the Tournament of Roses festival.3 / 4
Marching in the Tournament of Roses Parade was a dream come true for RHS students and the band directors.4 / 4

The Rosemount High School marching band spent months preparing for its debut in the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Band members marched rings around the turf of the Irish Dome, making sure they were lined up just so and took corners the way they were supposed to. They practiced and adjusted and practiced some more until everything was just the way they wanted it.

And then, as sometimes happens when real life gets involved, things kind of broke down.

Specifically, a float two in front of the band started leaking oil all over the street halfway through the parade route, stalling everyone behind it for 20 minutes.

So, the band improvised. They couldn’t break ranks, but the drumline performed its cadence. Band members stood as people in the crowd wandered into the street for pictures.

It was an unexpected moment and, band director Steve Olsen said, pretty remarkable.

“It was just kind of an incredible moment where it was just over the top friendly,” Olsen said. “Our kids handled it so well. That’s the thing. We are so incredibly proud of our kids.”

For Olsen, it was one memorable moment in a trip full of memorable moments. From Bandfest, an exhibition for parade bands; to a parade through the streets of Disneyland; to a brunch for band directors and school administrators, events ran smoothly, and everybody made Rosemount’s representatives feel welcome.

That enthusiasm went well beyond event organizers and even the fans along the route. As the band devoured the free lunches provided at the end of the parade they got text messages, Facebook and Twitter posts and messages on Pinterest from friends and from complete strangers who had watched them either in person or on television.

Band members were busy pretty much nonstop once they arrived in Pasadena. There were amusement parks to visit and sites to see.

“Really, every hour of the day was scheduled,” said senior Emily Brossart, one of the band’s four drum majors. “I liked it, because I wouldn’t have wanted to cut anything out of our trip, but it was pretty exhausting.”

There was a lot to take in. Bandfest was a chance for the Irish to show off the field show that is the focus of their marching season. It was nice, Brossart said, to perform the show without having to worry about what place they might finish.

The Irish band was also part of a parade through the winding streets of Disneyland on what is reportedly the amusement park’s second busiest day of the year.

And, of course, there was the Rose Parade itself. Band members got a warning ahead of time that seeing the crowd lined up along the parade route could be an awe-inspiring experience, and the experience didn’t let them down.

When bands turn the corner onto Colorado Boulevard, they can see almost the entire parade route – and some 700,000 fans – lined up ahead of them. That’s also the corner where many of the TV cameras are stationed, all focused on the Irish band.

“You turn the corner … and you see these massive stands and all of the fans cheering for you,” Brossart said. “We aren’t the halftime show. We are, at that moment, the main attraction.”

“It was pretty cool to be marching in front of so many people like that,” said sophomore Wesley Ellison, who plays clarinet in the band.

Some band members might have been worn out by the end of the 5 ½-mile parade — two students who came down with a bug during the trip had to be pulled along the route — but adrenaline kept them going to the end.

The cheering crowd helped keep everyone motivated.

“Even as we were marching and exhausted and we were ready to stop and sit down in the shade there were people that were cheering for us and holding up signs saying, ‘Only a mile left,’” Brossart said.

In the days following the parade, band members watched recordings of themselves parade on television and online.

“I don’t usually get to see what the band looks like when they’re actually marching,” Ellison said. “That was pretty cool.”

If the organizers of the Tournament of Roses Parade have anything to say about it, Rosemount High School’s first trip to Pasadena won’t be its last.

Olsen was leaving Bandfest when one of the event’s key organizers took him by the arm and told him he was surprised this was the Irish’s first time in the parade. He encouraged Olsen to apply four years from now, when the band is once again eligible, then said if they didn’t hear from him, they were going to come calling.

Olsen doesn’t sound like he would take much convincing. Five days after the New Year’s Day parade, he raved about the entire experience.

“Everything they did was highly organized and very affirming and very positive, very professional” Olsen said.

Brossart said she is still processing this year’s event, but it’s clear the trip made an impression.

“It still hasn’t really hit us,” Brossart said. “It’s kind of coming back all in chunks.

“This is my senior year and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

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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