Marching band returns from east coast trip

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 7/21/99.

Band playing Nearly two weeks ago, the Paynesville Area Marching Band returned from a season-concluding, nine-day trip to Boston and New York.

The band left Paynesville on two buses on the morning of July 1, and drove straight through the night to Niagara Falls, their first tourist stop the next day. They rode a boat, the Maid of the Mist, to get a close-up view of the falls. Bass player Josh Jones said it was his favorite part of the trip. "You have to see it to understand why," he said. After that morning stop, the buses drove through the afternoon to their motel near Boston.

On July 3, the band toured a series of historic sites in the morning, including the John F. Kennedy Library, a replica of the Mayflower, and Plymouth Plantation. Katie Wright and Ryan Whitcomb enjoyed eating seafood on the coast.

"I liked the structure of the city," said Megan Nyffeler, "how the buildings were all so neat and tidy, how the small streets went at all different angles, and how the old buildings just followed."

"It was really neat to see where America started," added Mackenzie Merrill, another mellophone player. "The seaside was also really beautiful."

"I enjoyed all the historic buildings," said chaperone Mary Stock, "and actually being able to walk the same streets as our country's forefathers!"

The band marched in its first parade in Randolph, Mass., on the evening of July 3. They spent the morning of the Fourth in downtown Boston before marching in two more parades in the afternoon. "I loved the scenery and the atmosphere in Boston," said Erin Aagesen of the color guard. "We were there on the Fourth of July, so you could really see how patriotic everyone was."

"I've never seen the Fourth of July celebrated with that much enthusiasm before," added trumpet player Anne Janotta. "You saw the U.S. flag hanging anywhere you went."

"It seems to be a bigger deal to the people out there," continued Bridget Mueller, the band's drum line captain. "All the homes were decorated with red, white, and blue."

The weather for marching was far from ideal, hot and humid. "The heat is what I'll remember," said Brent Heinen.

Andrew Jones said he remembers "the heat, humidity, and everybody telling us they love our governor."

Other than the heat, assistant director Ken Vork said he would remember the hospitality of the parade goers. "People were more gracious and friendly than I expected," he said.

"The crowd was so friendly and clapped and cheered a lot," said Freddie Stock, a trombonist.

"In every parade, all of the people would cheer us on," added flute player Sara Ringstad.

Drum major Joe Halvorson said the crowds were the more memorable part of the parades. "They were so appreciative. They cheered and screamed even when we'd just walk by," he said.

"The best part of the parades were the people," agreed Jessi Louis, color guard. "Everyone thought we were great! I think we represented Paynesville very well."

On the Fourth, the band marched in two parades, and fatigue was definitely a factor due to the heat. "It was so hot in the Boston area over the Fourth of July, but everyone watching us was so supportive," said Janotta.

"The people were extremely supportive and fun," agreed Aagesen. "It helped a lot to know the people were enjoying themselves."

"The people in Boston and New York cheered for us more than Minnesota people did," said Casey Kavanagh, a saxophonist. "I really felt welcomed."

For Eric Rausch, hearing cheers and compliments from the crowd was his favorite part of marching. Chaperone Mark Nyffeler remembers friendly spec-tators and how the kids worked together.

Watering the band The parade in Bristol, R.I., on July 5, is the oldest Fourth of July parade in America. The parade route was three miles long, and, with all the entries, the marching was slow. The weather was extremely hot, leading to fatigue.

"We would take breaks and the people would give us their chairs to sit in. Some gave us wet washcloths. Others gave us a shower from their water hoses," said trombonist Tiff Rausch. "It was very neat to see the support we received from people across the country."

This picture, taken during the Bristol parade, shows spectators giving the band a shower with cool water.

As chaperones, Stock and Brenda Whitcomb had the opportunity to listen to the audience. "Walking along with our band," said Stock, "I could hear all of the positive comments from the crowd. The people of the Boston area were so friendly and helpful!"

"The crowds were all very appreciative that our band travelled to their parades," added Whitcomb. "We heard numerous compliments about our fine band and performances."

In just their second year of competitive marching, the band won four first place awards in six Minnesota parades, including a grand championship and a victory at the prestigious parade in Alexandria. On their east coast tour, the band marched in four parades. For the Boston parades, bands are paid appearance fees and are not judged.

"I think we all felt a sense of accomplishment for working so hard and earning such outstanding results," said graduating trumpeter Lynn Stoneburner.

"The most memorable moment of all the parades," added James Gulbranson, another graduating trumpeter, "was finishing the Bristol parade, my last parade, and realizing all we had accomplished."

Band at Central Park The band arrived at their motel in the New York City area on the night of July 5 and had three days to explore the city, without worrying about any more parades. Vork said he liked finally being in New York City. "I loved the Empire State Building, but it didn't last long enough," he said.

"Seeing the streets packed with people at 5 p.m. was pretty impressive," added Mueller. "I also enjoyed seeing all the sites. When we arrived in New York City, we were all done with parades, and that was a good feeling."

The band posed for a picture in Central Park.

On July 6, they saw St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, NBC Studios, Radio City Music Hall, the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, and the Intrepid aircraft carrier. "The Lincoln Center for Performing Arts was a great experience," said Stoneburner. "We were able to watch a rehearsal by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra."

The next day, the band took a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and drove their bus through Chinatown and the financial district. At night, they saw the Broadway musical Les Miserables, a favorite for many students.

On July 8, they toured Giants Stadium, went to lunch by Times Square, took a walking tour of Central Park, visited Grand Central Station, and went to the top of the Empire State Building.

"I loved all the huge buildings and the hustle and bustle of everything," said Tiff Rausch. "It was neat to see firsthand, instead of from T.V. and movies."

Josh Jones used words like "Wow!" and "Yikes!" to describe the sites of the city. He said he learned that: "New York is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there."

"When you looked out of the bus around rush hour," commented Rachel Koehn, "you'd see tons of cars, but also people everywhere."

Maria Janotta enjoyed touring the sites by bus. "I liked riding on the bus through New York City," she said. "You could see a lot of stuff that way."

Megan Nyffeler said going to the top of the Empire State Building was her favorite part of the trip. "It wrapped up the trip perfectly," she said.

The band left New York City in the evening on July 8 and got home on Friday evening, July 9.

Overall, the trip got some stellar reviews. "Loved it!" stated Lauren Vork.

"We had a few mishaps..., but we had no problem making the best of things," said Mueller. "We worked hard all season, and knowing we would be going on this trip helped motivate us. In the end, all our hard work paid off and we had a blast."

Several band members thanked their director, Bryan Mara, and his assistants for putting the trip together. "I would like to thank Mr. Mara for the time he put in to make this trip possible, and for his enthusiasm which rubbed off on all of us," said Gulbranson.

"This was an extraordinarily well-planned trip!" Gretchen Vork added. "We saw and did so much in so little time. Also, the kids did a great job of 'rolling with the punches' on those few times things didn't go quite as planned."

"We expected a lot from these students--long days, busy schedules, and a lot of time on the bus," said Ken Vork. "I've toured with lots of groups and I felt that overall this was the best group I've ever toured with."

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