A grandstand seat to the Rose Parade costs $50. To march costs a lot more. For each of the 266 members of the Defiance (Ohio) High School Marching Band, a five-night trip to California will cost $1,151, including $59 apiece for visits to Disneyland and Universal Studios and $20 for a New Year's Eve party.
The financing falls largely to individual families, but to lower the price, corporate contributions were sought, and nearly 30 fund-raisers organized everything from the proverbial candy sales, car washes, and dances, to $6 boxes of cornflakes bearing pictures of the band.
No band member who needed financial help was refused, but each family agreed to support and participate in fund-raising efforts. The band participated in a 10-mile "marchathon" through town earlier this month.
The event was to raise money via pledges and to test the endurance of the band. "We're like 99 percent of the other bands in the country," says director Vince Polce. "We're not too good on the street unless we practice."
Dressed in casual clothes, the band hit the road at 9 a.m. Saturday, wound its way down main streets and quiet residential neighborhoods, leaving excited children and beaming adults in its wake.
Many folks called out greetings to Mr. Polce. Band members marched and played, and occasionally a handful of them would dash into someone's house to use the bathroom, an option that won't exist during the Rose Parade.
After about six miles of uptempo marching with only one extended stop at a railroad crossing, the band did take a lunch break at an elementary school, where a local sub shop provided the food.
Ray Hartzell took the opportunity to park his 45-pound sousaphone on the grass. The weight of this hulking instrument was "tolerable," he says, but come New Year's Day he expects to reach for a makeshift cushion. "Either your shoulder hurts," he says, "or you wear a diaper [as padding] under your uniform."
Going the distance may require it. The Rose Parade is the marathon of band experiences.
Kristi Parsons, a flag bearer in 1981, when Defiance High last went to Pasadena, says it was "marching and music, marching and music, and people and people and people. I remember it being very long."