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East Fairmont band ready for Pasadena

Article by Jenni Vincent (12/19/99) - The Dominion Post

FAIRMONT - Dreams do come true, but not without a lot of hard work.

Perhaps no one knows that better than Earl W. McConnell, director of the East Fairmont High School Busy Bee Band and Honeybees.

After more than a year of preparation, McConnell, choreographer Tracey Linn and his 240 band members are counting the days until they appear in the 111th Tournament of Roses Parade, in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year's Day.

"Two weeks from today, the young men and women you see in front of you will have completed the Tournament of Roses Parade," McConnell said to an audience of nearly 150 well-wishers at Saturday's media day.

"So many people are responsible for our success," McConnell said.  "Band students and their families, band alumni and booster members, as well as local residents and businesses have really gotten behind us to make this trip possible."

Saturday was a time to show some appreciation; to give something back to the community, he said.

It featured the parade numbers and field show that band members and Honeybees will be presenting in California.

Excited friends and family members crowded around a table featuring everything from newly printed EFHS Busy Bee Band bumper stickers to lapel pins before moving to the gym for the performance.

Many people in the audience wore "Everything's coming up roses" t-shirts in support of the band program.

"Everything is selling really well, but especially the bumper stickers," said EFHS tech JoAnn Nuzum, mother of Queen Bee Blaire Nuzum.  "I'm telling you, in a couple of days we'll be seeing these on cars all over Fairmont."

Jim Wilson said it is amazing that his daughter, Ashley - a junior and Honeybee - along with other band members will soon be seen by both millions of people in the United States and internationally.

More than a million parade watchers are expected to line the 6 1/2-mile parade route which starts on South Orange Grove Boulevard and then turns onto Colorado Boulevard.

Three major networks - NBC, CBS and ABC - will be televising the 11 a.m. parade on Jan. 1.

"It is estimated that there will be a worldwide audience of over 425 million people, with an international network using 15 satellites delivering the parade to five continents and more than 100 countries," McConnell told the crowd, which gave the band several standing ovations during their performance.

McConnell said efforts to secure an invitation to the Tournament of Roses Parade began two years ago.

"I got together with the administrative board of our band boosters and asked if they would grant me some funds to travel out to Pasadena to watch the parade and see what goes on behind the scenes," he said.

Band Booster President Don Humphrey smiled as he recalled that early meeting when McConnell first suggested aiming for the Tournament of Roses Parade.

"He was confident that we could do it and, of course, knowing him we never had any doubt that our band program was up to this level of performing," Humphrey said proudly.

"Now that the time is almost here, it's exciting but a lot of us know that this trip has been in the making ever since Earl first suggested it years ago," he said.

That initial fact-finding trip was important for several reasons.

"I had to see if we could handle something like this logistically.  Plus, I also wanted to see the quality of groups that they had out there, because I wanted to be sure we could represent ourselves well," McConnell said.

Even applying for the parade isn't easy, he said.

"We had to have our application in a year and a half before we'd ever know if we'd get to go," McConnell said, still vividly able to recall the thick binder, color photos and even a video that had been sent to he parade officials.

Bands are reviewed by regions and the top two choices for each of the country's eight regions are selected.  But that figure is eventually whittled down to 12, McConnell said.

"The toughest part is from April when you apply, until December when they announce their choices," he said with a knowing smile.  "So it was actually last December that we found out we were going.  That gives the bands a complete year to get organized, raise funds and get ready."

McConnell made a second trip to Pasadena for last year's parade.  That's when he began "shadowing" other bands to see how they functioned and also signed a housing contract with the Hilton Burbank for band members' hotel accommodations, he said.

Since then, reservations have been made on four different United Airlines flights for band members and those who will be accompanying the students, McConnell said.

"Just making  these kinds of arrangements are tough enough," he said.  "Now we're down to the point where we'll actually have students flying in and out of several major national airports, such as Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Burbank and Los Angeles."

Students and band chaperones will leave Pittsburgh on Dec. 29 and return Jan. 3.

  Arrival/Departure | Bandfest/Float Viewing | Hard Rock/Universal Studios | Santa Monica Pier
Rose Parade | New Year's Eve | Disney | Misc. | Legislature Presentation

2000 Tournament of Roses Coverage



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