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Gadsden band gets formal invitation from London
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — It's a rare honor to be invited to be part of the annual New Year's Day Parade and Festival in London.
So perhaps it was only fitting that the Gadsden Elementary School District's marching band would receive that invitation from none other than the great-grandson of one of the United Kingdom's renown historical figures, Winston Churchill.
Duncan Sandys, the former lord mayor of Westminster, came to Southwest Junior High School on Tuesday to deliver the formal invitation for the 27th annual parade Jan. 1.
“The new year's parade is the biggest event in our city,” said Sandys during a ceremony that packed the school's gym with students and band members. “We are very proud of it, and the 27th annual parade is a great way to begin 2013.
“You will be bringing a part of America to the streets of London. Talent such as yours is crucial to the parade.”
Band members will spend a week in London as parade participants at an estimated cost of nearly $300,000. District officials expect to raise the money for the travel expenses through fundraising events and activities and contributions from the students' families.
The invitation is the latest accolade for the band, made up of about 180 students in grades fourth through eighth. Most recently, the band wrapped up 2011 with performances in the 80th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade in Los Angeles and the Fort McDowell Fiesta Bowl Parade in Phoenix.
Sandys, whose great-grandfather led Britain against Hitler in World War II, served as mayor of Westminster, a community within London, from 2009 to 2010. He presented the invitation to the parade Tuesday after accompanying Southwest Principal Richard West and school counselor Homero Chavez on a tour of educational facilities in the district that serves San Luis and neighboring Gadsden.
The presentation, however, was a formality, since the district had previously accepted the invitation.
Accompanying Sandys to San Luis on Tuesday was Robert Bone, the founder and executive director of the annual parade. He told students during the ceremony at Southwest that the Gadsden band's reputation will precede it to London.
“We've listened to a university band that is also invited, and I should tell that it is a very good and very well-known band, but it isn't as good as you. I am incredibly impressed at what excellent musicians you are.”
Bone added that the students will be part of a parade considered the biggest in the world.
“In America you have a very big event here, the Macy's Parade in New York, but it doesn't compare.”