The magic of Disney
Jefferson High School’s ‘Cougar’ Marching Band experienced the wonderful world of Disney as they traveled to Orlando during spring break to march at the Magic Kingdom.
As part of the Disney Performing Arts Program, the band, under the direction of J.P. Lynch and Larissa Elliott, marched Wednesday night through the streets of the Kingdom around Cinderella’s Castle and into “Frontierland.”
Lynch explained that he sent a video of a past marching performance to Disney to see if the officials there would approve the Cougar’s request to perform in one of the parks. Bands from around the country travel to Florida and parade through various parks at differing times of the day.
“We were fortunate to be selected for the most sought after parade performance, the Electric Light Parade, in Magic Kingdom,” Lynch said. “There were 75,000-100,000 people in the park during our performance.”
More than 100 of the band’s 175 members were able to make the trip, along with more than two dozen chaperones. Leaving Jefferson County on Monday afternoon, the group traveled via charter bus overnight, arriving at Disney’s Blizzard Beach Tuesday morning for a day of fun in the sun and water.
Constant reminders by band directors and Kathy Turner, who served as the group’s medical lead, to apply and re-apply sunscreen helped assure that there were no major cases of discomfort prior to the parade performance.
“Having Kathy there as our medical lead was a great help,” Lynch commented. “She did a wonderful job taking care of our students.”
The students spent the entire day Wednesday in the Magic Kingdom where they rode ride after ride. They visited shops, saw shows and spent time posing for pictures with Disney’s famous characters including Mickey Mouse himself. Despite the day’s adventures, the band members were pumped with excitement when it came time to prepare for the parade performance.
Bobby Gianniny shared that “Containing our excitement was the hardest part of preparing. We didn’t take long to master the music so we had few practices.”
He explained that the band was comfortable with the piece they were playing so the excitement focused on going on such an excellent trip with friends.
The parade proved to be the highlight for many of the band members.
Brett Hooks summed it up by stating, “Reality set in and hit when I turned the corner and saw Cinderella’s Castle all lit up. ‘Wow,’ I thought. ‘I’m really marching in Disney.'”
Hooks went on to say that he was very glad to have mastered the music beforehand so that he could look around while marching.
Alex Saenz shared, “My favorite part was being in the parade. Oh, and going to Epcot,” he included.
Ashley Derr concurred.
“The best thing I did was the parade because we got to bring joy to thousands of people,” Derr said. “It was really hot but definitely worth the sweat and dry mouths to make everyone around us happy.”
Olivia Stevenson also make a point of commenting on the heat; however, to her it was a factor.
“It was very hot marching in the parade-80 degrees out and wearing a heavy uniform. There was sweat dripping everywhere,” she said.
Stevenson’s favorite memories made were those of riding rides and hanging out with friends.
The end of the parade Wednesday did not end the fun of the group of weary travelers. Thursday saw them travel to Animal Kingdom and Epcot where they took in the sights, rode rides and enjoyed the complete Disney experience. The final day was spent traversing the streets of Hollywood Studios where many of the teens gravitated time after time to the park’s infamous “Tower of Terror.”
A stomach-dropping fall inside a haunted hotel, the ride had students in line over and over again. Maggie Milbourne shared that was her favorite ride. She rode it 10 times before the day was out.
Gianniny agreed that the Tower was great fun.
“And it provided several embarrassing photos,” he laughed.
The band students were not the only ones enjoying the trip. Chaperones explored shops, traveled around the world at Epcot and sat in on shows like Frozen and Beauty and the Beast. Many spent hours riding along with their children.
Lisa Fresch shared that she enjoyed spending the time with her daughter before she leaves for college this fall.
Kristie Mills shared that as an adult and a parent, her favorite part of the trip was “seeing my son Austin Bradford in the parade and just doing this as a family as my other son came with us.”
Several families made the week a vacation as well as a “band trip.”
“The overall experience was amazing for all the kids and I’m sure they all feel as my son, how grateful they are to have this opportunity,” said parent Julie Bound.
Lynch, who has been teaching for 20 years, said that this trip was the best he has taken.
“I was very pleased with how the trip went. Studnets were well behaved and the chaperones were very helpful.”
Derr spoke for many when she said, “It was the trip of a lifetime.”