A Parent’s Perspective on the Rose Parade

Editor at Large

NEW YEAR’S DAY MARCH: The Jenks High School band members had an experience of a lifetime as they marched in the 2016 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.


The adventure is over.
Now the memories begin.

I was picking up my son Matthew from band practice some 16 months ago when I noticed a strange grin on his face. “Guess where we’re (the Jenks High School band) going?” he asked. I knew there’s nothing the Jenks band hierarchy likes better than a competition; trips to Texas, Oklahoma City and even Chicago were in the near future but the open-ended nature of the question suggested something more exotic.



That would be Pasadena, as in California, and the only musical event of note there would be the Rose Parade. The Jenks band would be marching in the granddaddy of all such parades.

For the next year-plus, the lives of hundreds of Jenks parents would be outlined by bowl-bound deadlines. Some were the same as usual; practices had to be attended, the requisite skills attained, the music perfected. Every morning, before the sun thought to make an appearance, cars would disgorge instrument-toting high-schoolers readying themselves for one of the great events of a lifetime. Meanwhile the parents would be busy coming up with the other necessary ingredient of a successful trip – paying for it.

All the massive planning for hotel reservations, leisure-time activities and shared meals was conducted away from my view; although, I can only wonder how many hundreds of man-hours were spent in nailing everything down. Somehow, it was done. An airplane was chartered and arrangements made to get the large-member band and chaperones to Pasadena. The final payments were made. Trucks were loaded with instruments and uniforms and sent off on the lonely highways between Jenks and Pasadena.

Finally, on a cold and very wet morning (happily, it wasn’t five degrees colder, or snow would have been on the ground and all the caretakers would really have had a mess on their hands), the band members congregated at Jenks High School to take buses scheduled to depart at 4 a.m. going to the airport.

Most parents slouched back to bed. The musicians were driven to the airport and sent through security. For some, like my son, it was a first flight. “It wasn’t what I expected,” he recalled after returning home. “I guess I just thought we’d rise slowly but when the plane took off, it was like a roller-coaster and we shot up to cruising altitude. It was a blast!”

On arriving in California, the students were hustled off on a sightseeing tour to a farmer’s market where a cornucopia of unusual gastronomic treats awaited them; many never seen in the Tulsa area. The pizza man did a big business.

The trip offered the young travelers a host of experiences. A journey to a Santa Monica beach and a chance to dip their feet into the Pacific Ocean. There was a trip to Universal Studios where classic characters like Dracula and the Frankenstein monster were there to greet the unwary but where the main attraction turned out to be Minions from the recent block-buster hit.

One of the best moments, he recalls, was when they had a last walk-through rehearsal in which they reprised the halftime show they had been performing during the 2015 football season. “It was the last time we would be doing it. It was almost like saying goodbye to an old friend.

“We also got to see and hear what some of the other bands were doing. That was neat.” There were many parents and fans of the parade in the stands cheering each band as they performed. It was a great welcome!

New Year’s Day, of course, was . It required them to get up early to make a parade that would begin at 8 a.m. Pacific time. “It seems like it took only a few minutes between the time we got off the bus and we started the parade route. The crowd was gigantic, the atmosphere was electric, everything was exciting.” The day was pleasant, neither too hot nor too cold, but the physical strain of marching five and a half miles lay ahead.

“There was a right turn about a mile past the starting point that was clogging the parade up. The bands could make the turn well enough but some of the floats required considerable time to make the right angle and the bands behind them had to march in time. We had to keep our instruments at least halfway up and after a while our arms began to feel really heavy.”

Most of the TV cameras were around the turn, as were the heaviest crowds. As they marched along, the crowds began to thin out but the enthusiasm of those still on the route never wavered. All along the route the Jenks’ band alternated playing Oklahoma and John Phillip Sousa’s Washington Post March.

Along with the fatigue, the band had another perceived problem; the equestrian units. Mounted men may look fine in a parade but their horses are rarely house-broken, and the question in more than one mind was how to keep up the line while side-stepping unwanted impediments!

Finally, it was over. In two hours the object of months of planning and preparing had been achieved. Many of the players were just plain exhausted. Knowing what he knows now, would he do it again? “I think everyone in the band would love to do it again.”

The parade was on a Friday, New Year’s Day. Saturday was devoted to Disneyland. Sunday was the flight back to Tulsa. Monday started school. The adventure was over. The memories will be rehashed for years.

On New Year’s Day 2017, the Broken Arrow High School band has been invited to march in the Rose Parade. They’re going to have a great time!

Updated 01-25-2016

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