By NEESEY PAYNE
Not every high school marching band can say they’ve been nominated by their congressman to represent Pulaski County and the Commonwealth of Virginia at the National Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C., but the Golden Cougar Marching Band can.
To have the honor of marching down historic Constitution Avenue along with other invited bands, military and floats, while hundreds of thousands line the streets showing their American pride is not an easy feat. They’ve made the cut, now the band needs the community’s support to make the trip happen.
According to Nicole Ward, Pulaski County Band Boosters president, the cost of the trip is $65,000. In an interview, band director Patrick Butler said the band has received a $2,000 scholarship from the C.E. Richardson Foundation. But they still have a ways to go.
Currently, 53 students, ranging from middle school to college level, will be participating in the event.
“We will be having some eighth grade students that will be marching with us. We’re really hoping this will get them interested in our program … because we are losing a large number this year in our senior class,” said Ward at a recent school board meeting. Those in college will be band students who will have just graduated from PCHS in June.
Each student has the task of raising $650 for the four-day trip, July 2-5. “The large majority are trying their best to come up with this money to be able to go on this trip and represent our community, our school system and our state,” Ward said.
She added approximately 20 chaperones will be attending to “ensure the students are well taken care of, accounted for and have a wonderful time.”
Fundraising efforts are already underway. The band is doing a postcard fundraiser – notifying friends, family members, neighbors and community members of their nomination to march in the parade and ways they can donate. Donations may be made in the name of the band or a student.
Future fundraisers over the next few months will include a pasta fundraiser, pizza and cookie dough fundraiser, Krispy Kreme donut sale and spaghetti dinner featuring the New River Community College Old Pros Big Band Orchestra, of which Butler is a member.
“We’re hoping that the community will get behind us. It’s a large undertaking,” said Ward.
The band will not only participate in the parade while in D.C., the trip will include many educational activities.
The Cougars will witness a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery, and will also take tours of all the national monuments in D.C., and the Smithsonian Institute. After marching in the parade, the band will attend a “Capitol Fourth” celebration featuring the National Symphony and other invited guest artists. The celebration will conclude with a grand fireworks display. The last day of the trip students will enjoy an afternoon at Six Flags.
“This is a great event, not only for the kids in the band, but for our community to represent the state of Virginia in the National Independence Day Parade,” Butler said. “The students have done an exceptional job. I’m excited to have new folks from the middle schools march with us, too.”
“We are proud of our award winning marching band. Our band works hard to achieve perfection, and its nice to see their efforts recognized and rewarded,” said Dr. Thomas Brewster, superintendent of schools.
Students have until May 15 to raise all funds needed for the trip. Students are hoping to raise the money so they can strut their stuff on Independence Day – making Pulaski County proud of their Cougars.