Statesboro’s own little slice of Americana will be on prominent display when the United States celebrates its 236th birthday this July in the nation’s capitol.
With thousands of people flanking Constitution Avenue to look on, Statesboro High School’s Blue Devil Marching Band will stride and perform a medley of patriotic tunes as part of the annual National Independence Day Parade on Wednesday, July 4 in Washington, D.C.
The school band will join 25 others, one from Georgia (South Gwinnett), in taking part in the prestigious, nationally televised affair.
“This is a really big deal for us. It is our first big, national event,” said Blue Devil Marching Band Leader Joe Ferguson. “The president of the United States is going to watch my band march down the street. That is pretty cool.”
“We have been building toward making this event for about four years now. We started with a state event, performing at the music festival at Six Flags over Georgia, then two years ago marched in a parade at Universal Studios in Orlando,” Ferguson said. “This is step three. We are going on to a national event. The National Independence Day Parade is a pretty prestigious event; a lot of people call it the ‘gateway to Macy’s.’ Of course, the goal for any marching band is playing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We are now right on track for that.”
Not surprisingly, the Statesboro musicians are counting down the days until their appearance on the grand stage.
“(The students) are crazy about it. They can’t wait to go,” Ferguson said. “This is a once in a lifetime chance for these kids. They’ll never have another chance like this — to march down Constitution Avenue, being the center of attention and enjoying themselves.”
The Statesboro school was chosen to perform in the upcoming parade by a selection committee that reviews applications from around the country — bands must submit a recording, photos and biographical information detailing experience and honors such as past festival ratings. Hopefuls must also garner recommendations from either the state’s Governor's office or from a state music educator’s office.
“What happens a lot of times is: either someone in your city council or a state representative will see your band and make a recommendation to the governor,” Ferguson said. “I’m not sure who recommended us, but somehow someone got them our name and we got the nod.”
With invite in hand, the band’s focus now shifts toward preparation and raising enough money to make the costly trip.
Blue Devil Marching Band Boosters have initiated an effort to raise funds to help offset costs associated with the event.
“Right now, a lot of the burden unfortunately falls on each the students and their families,” Ferguson said. “We have some students that can’t go because of financial reasons.”
“Trying to fundraise can ease that burden,” he said. “Certainly, the more donations we get from successful fundraising efforts, the more students can get involved. We can’t afford to go on a trip like this without community support.”
The primary focus of the band’s fundraising efforts will be a Chicken Dinner scheduled for March 23. Boosters began selling tickets to the event on March 5.
Monies collected will aid in funding the Washington trip and new uniforms (the school has been saving funds for about five years to purchase the attire), which are hoped to be unveiled during the July parade.
Ferguson said routine rehearsals will begin within the next couple of months and continue through July. Once the school year comes to a close, students will practice three times a week, including then-graduated seniors who have been invited to hang around for a chance to perform in the parade.
When the big day arrives, the band plans to be a standout.
“I am going to write and arrange the music that we play,” Ferguson said. “No one else will have our music. We’ll go up there and make our unique sound; that’s what we do.”
The National Independence Day Parade is scheduled to begin at 11:45 a.m.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.