Parade Day

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It’s parade day. The kids of the Amery High School Marching Band have an early wake up call. I somehow manage to roll myself out of the warm covers of my bed and find a pair of shorts and a t-shirt to wear. The shutting door and rustling of newspapers lets me know my sister and dad are already awake and also getting ready. As I head to the kitchen, I remember where we are heading this early Saturday morning: the Minnesota State Fair. I eat a quick bowl of cereal and scurry to find my shoes, black socks, spats, and gloves that I was supposed to set out the night before. There is just enough time to find all of my belongings and jump into the car to head to school.

The band room is already somewhat filled with other band members. I make my way to the closet where my uniform and hat are. The cabinet smells faintly of sweat and dirty socks; the familiar aroma is welcoming as I spot my number. I pull it out, grab my saxophone off the shelf, and find my chair. There is some small talk as I sit down. The band-aids are checking for any nail polish, makeup, or jewelry because it is not allowed while marching. Gatorade ® and water are being packed up, along with the other emergency supplies that may be needed. Roll call is finally being taken. Everyone seems to be here, even though we are still a little sleepy. Sections at a time, we file out to the buses and find a seat. The bigger horns, including my saxophone, have already been loaded onto the trailer; so my only responsibility is my uniform and hat. Everything is loaded, and we pull out of the school parking lot. No loud sound can be heard but the humming of the engine. I, as well as many others, fall asleep.

When I wake up, we are pulling into the staging area. Everyone trudges off the buses, as we all know what is in store, except for the freshmen. They have absolutely no idea what is going on and what is going to happen; they seem to have a hidden nervousness. Keeping hydrated, we sit under the shade of the huge trees that line the parking lot. It is finally time to get ready.
The girls put their hair up in a bun on the top of their heads so it will fit inside of their hats. Our instruments are laid out and waiting to be played. Pants, shoes, spats, coat, gloves, and hat are put on in a quick manner. As we finish getting ready, the words “line up” are being yelled. Row by row, we hear our names called in the spot we will be marching in. I hear my name called and quickly step in next to a right guard. It is already starting to get hot under what feels like an electric blanket warming up. There are two short sounds of the whistle and everyone gets quiet in anticipation of what lies ahead. Finally, the moment we have been waiting for: the whistle to stand at attention. Every spectator’s eyes are on us, amazed. We work together as a unit, moving together at exactly the same time. “AHS Rah” we yell after four short blows of the whistle. “1, 2, 3, Kick!” My feet start the shuffle even without thinking. I hear shouts and cheering as we begin. A smile starts creeping across my face until I remember what my job is. The beat of the drums is like the pulse that keeps my heart pumping. A quick glance to my right reassures me that I am in line. Then, what seems like an uncontrolled yell from every band member is actually the signal for the song we are about to play. It starts in the drummer’s line and slowly intensifies as the sound grows and travels, until silence. We all continue marching, waiting for the roll off. Simultaneously, the words “over” and “up” are screamed from us, our horns snapping with each command. The song starts in perfect unison. We work together to create the perfect mood for our viewers. I can hear loud applause and whistling as we march by. The constant scraping of my shoes against the pavement is a comforting reminder that I am in step with everyone around me.

Keeping in step is the easy part. Everyone is sweating profusely as the beaming sun beats through the trees and absorbs itself into our uniforms. I feel like I am trapped inside a heater with the temperature slowly rising. I keep marching; I have to. We pass by multiple food venders selling mini doughnuts, pretzels, pizza, and kettle corn; other unidentifiable odors fill the air. The smell is unruly as it fills up my nostrils. I feel like I am about to pass out, but I can’t seem to make my feet pull out of the continuous motion. One foot strikes down in front of the other. It seems like forever since we started the parade. The others marching around me say “We’re almost there”, “Hang on”, and “Keep marching” with what little breath they can spare. We round a corner to the left; the home stretch is just before us. I order myself to keep marching, going against the penetrating thoughts telling me that I am not going to make it and that I have to drop out. Through glazed over, glassy eyes I make out the words on a sign that says “judging starts here.” This is the time when it actually counts. I always wondered why they put the judging area at the end of every parade. For those still marching, this is where endurance is key. We all try to be better than we ever have been before. The shuffle of our feet is more prominent than ever, signifying that we are all still in this and going strong. Loud parts of our songs are ear-blasting, almost to the point of ugly; and the crowd has to be practically silent to try to hear our soft playing. One song is played instantly after the other. I start to lose my breath now, like a vacuum sucking the air out of my lungs.

Finally the sign I have been waiting for. Judging ends here is like a gasp of air, a refreshing cold drink that I have been longing for. It is only moments later that we are nearing the end of the parade route. We take our hats off quickly once we are past the people. Four taps of the drum and then a half-hearted yell, “1, 2, 3, kick, halt.” The continuous motion that once was my feet slamming against the asphalt has been broken. My legs feel weak, but I have to keep walking. As quickly as we can, we take off our jackets and gloves. My sweat has bonded my coat to my body; it feels like I’m peeling off tape. I have finally escaped the trap that has had a hold of me for the past couple hours. The full parade route made a loop, bringing us back to where we started. Reaching the staging area, which has now become a rest area, we roll our pants down and are ordered to sit in the shade. At least two cups of fluid needs to be consumed by each person. The band-aids walk around pouring multiple glasses of Gatorade and checking to make sure everyone is okay.

After sitting for what seems longer than needed, we start to pack up. The girls usually get to go on the buses first. We pile on eight at a time to hang up our uniforms. Shortly after I finish hanging up mine, everyone has been on and off his or her bus and is ready to be done. It has been a long, but fulfilling day; knowing that we did our best. Now all we want is a long, peaceful bus ride home.





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