By Crystal Burns
For the past week, leaders of Gibson County’s five high school marching bands kept a big secret from their students and communities.
To reveal it, they employed a helicopter, roses and he public address system at the Gibson County High School annual marching festival held Saturday in Dyer. Members of the Air Evac Lifeteam landed a chopper on the football field, delivering the Mayor’s Cup trophy for the festival and several red roses. With all directors and their staffs on the field, the public announcer played a special message from Bob Miller, president of the Tournament of Roses Parade presented by Honda, congratulating the county mass band on being selected to march in the 2021 parade in Pasadena, Calif.
Jeremy Tate, director of the GCHS Marching Pioneers, led the effort to apply for the New Year’s Day parade, which showcases Southern California’s abundance of flowers even in the midst of winter.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Tate said. “Some of these kids have never been out of the state.”
Tate explained that the late Pete Evans, a longtime band director at Milan High School, created the mass band in 1988. His one regret was not taking it to the national level, Tate said.
With the support of his fellow directors, Tate applied for the Tournament of Roses Parade on behalf of the mass band. He said the process was strenuous, but he was encouraged by a parade scout who had seen GCHS marching videos on YouTube and asked Tate to apply. Tate was one of only five directors in the Southeast that the recruiter contacted.
Tate submitted a video from the last time the mass band performed – at the 2016 West Tennessee Strawberry Festival – as well as highlights from GCHS, South Gibson County High School, Humboldt High School, Milan High School and Peabody High School.
The county mass band was one of 13 chosen out of the 120 applicants.
Getting to Pasadena will be no small task. Tate said the last time the mass band performed, about 330 students were involved. He estimates the band will need to raise $600,000-$900,000 to make the trip.
“We’ll rely heavily on community support,” he said.
Getting ready for their 2021 performance will also take a little magic. Tate said directors would begin working together and scheduling mass practices after they wrap their 2020 competition season. They will need to prepare a number for the parade itself plus a song for a Disney Land parade. Mass band students will also participate in a combined field show in Pasadena.
“This is a life-changing event,” Tate said. “We’re excited about the opportunity.”
To lend your support to the mass band, contact Tate at 731-692-3616 or firstname.lastname@example.org.