PASADENA, Calif. - As one of the bands marches along the track at Pasadena City College you can hear the sounds of "California Here I Come" which may be the mantra for many of the 20 bands gracing this year’s Rose Parade. Many performed in a trio of Bandfest performances. And even the rain didn’t dampen their enthusiasm.
Last year there was no Bandfest and no parade. The culprit was COVID-19. But, this year it’s full steam ahead for the New Year’s Day parade as 4,237 high school and college band members join 18 equestrian units and 43 floats — over 6,000 parade participants in all — for the excitement.
Parade officials say over 90% of the participants are vaccinated, and the rest will be tested before parade time. Rose Parade President Bob Miller is as excited as these young folks. To him, the parade will serve as a symbol to the rest of the planet.
"In this time of darkness and treading into the light there’s nothing like a great parade to show America and to show our world that America is back, and we’re ready to go," Miller said.
For those in the stands fighting the raindrops the Rose Parade isn’t just a parade. For people like the Podniaks from Ohio, here in town to watch the Ohio State band, it’s the parade.
"If you were born in the Midwest you watched the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day," Jane Podniak said. "This is a dream even for a 62-year-old."
"I’ve got to give these kids a lot of credit coming out here in weather like this the way they do. They sound great," Randy Podniak said.
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Whether college or high school, it means so much to be showcased in a parade like The Tournament of Roses. Santiago High School Band Director Joe Dudek says his band members were excited when they got the news they would be in the parade and Bandfest. "They were really excited," he said. "Just to be part of it is an honor."
Twenty-two states are represented this year, and that sense of honor and pride is shared by many.
"It’s not just the kids," Miller said. "It’s their parents, the band directors. It’s the staff, the administration. It’s everybody who supports it."
So while there may have been a little slosh in their marching Thursday, even Mother Nature wasn’t going to rain on the parade enthusiasm of the thousands of band members looking forward to New Year’s Day and the Rose Parade.
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