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Gadsden Band gets warm homecoming
Click here to see more photos of Gadsden Band's performance in London, courtesy of the London New Year's Day Parade
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — No matter that the temperature had dropped into the 40s, an elementary school marching band got a warm welcome home early Friday morning on its return from a performance in London's New Year's Day Parade.
At about 1:30 a.m., 86 band members and teachers and parents who served as chaperones arrived by bus at Southwest Junior High School, where family members, friends and officials of the Gadsden Elementary School District had been waiting nearly three hours for them.
The wait might have been a long one for those who couldn't make the journey to Britain, but it was soon forgotten amid the excitement surrounding the Gadsden marching band's homecoming from its first-ever overseas performance, in what has been described as the world's largest parade.
“It was an unforgettable experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life,” said Flor Marie Gonzalez, a trumpet player for the band. “The part of the parade I liked most was where we appeared on television. It seemed like the show we prepared pleased them a lot.
“People there aren't as expressive as they are here, but we knew they liked us from the applause. The parade was a little tiring, but we were ready for that,” added Flor Marie, an eighth-grade student at Southwest Junior High School and its student council president.
Victor Navarrete Jr., a saxophone player for the band, said he's sure the band made a good impression
“I feel we presented ourselves very well,” he said. “I was really exited during the part of the parade where television was. Right now, I'm really exited to return because I hadn't seen my family for a week.”
Flor Marie's mother, Marisa Gonzalez, and Victor's father, Victor Sr., agreed that the trip to Britain is a valuable experience for the students, apart from the accolades they received for their performance.
“It's helping them to mature in many aspects,” said Navarrete. “They are learning to make their way through their own efforts, and the lesson in practice and perseverance that they learned shows them that they can accomplish great things.”
One of a dozen bands that appeared before nearly a half-million spectators, the San Luis students performed a varied repertoire, said the Gadsden band director, Martin Peralta.
“They (the hosts) were very impressed by the level of talent of youngsters of this age,” he said. “We heard a lot of comments that ours was the best band. That really makes us proud, coming from such a small city.
“It was the youngest band, with very different styles, and that brought a lot of attention,” Peralta added.
While in Britain, Peralta said, the Gadsden band got an invitation to take part three years from now in another oversees parade, this one La Cabalgata de Los Reyes Magos, a holiday parade that takes place Jan. 5. He did not say whether the band will make that performance.
“We were invited in one of the meeting we had,” said Peralta. “For right now, we are going to sit down and reflect and learn from what happened” in London.
Its showing in London was not just a reflection on the band but on the community it represented, Gadsden district officials said.
“What we saw was a demonstration of the effort and support of everyone,” said Gadsden Superintendent Raymond Aguilera. “I was delighted to see them in the video and (to hear) comments that they were Hispanic, that they were the best.”
Luis Marquez, president of the Gadsden school board, said the band is one of the school programs that have helped improve student achievement in the district.
“In 1991, there was no band, and starting one was one of our goals when we got on the school board,” he said. “But we didn't think that it would reach these heights. This and all the other programs that help improve achievement have the full support of the school board.”
Having returned from London, the band's next performance will be Jan. 20 in San Diego, in that city's Martin Luther King Day parade.