The 216 members of the Homestead High School Mighty Mustang Marching Band had a 3:30 a.m. wake-up call for the Jan. 1 Rose Parade, but they were up even earlier. They had to evacuate their Pasadena hotel three times for false fire alarms the night before.
The sleep-deprived band members were too excited to feel tired as they departed at 6:15 a.m. for the staging areas of the parade, according to Connor Chow, a freshman who is part of the drum line.
The Los Altos resident called the Rose Parade a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Patrick Anderson, a junior who plays the bass drum, described how he gained more self-confidence through marching in the Rose Parade.
“When we went to the start of the parade, I was very nervous because I knew that so many people were watching me and counting on me,” he said. “Despite this, it also inspired me to keep pushing through because I knew that I would be making so many fans proud. In the end, the 5.5 miles was easier than I thought and was a great learning experience that I will never forget.”
For Will Belford, a sophomore who plays tenor drums, the most memorable aspect was “definitely marching around TV Corner (the intersection of Orange Grove and Colorado boulevards) and seeing the rest of the parade with people lining the streets to watch us.
“That view is something I will remember forever,” he said.
One of the head drum majors, Shani Zuniga, called marching in the Rose Parade an “honor beyond words.”
“The whole experience didn’t feel real until we’d made the turn down Colorado Boulevard on TV Corner,” she said. “The 5.5-mile parade itself felt endless as we were marching it, but when we reached the end, the whole band was smiling and laughing regardless of the aching feet and sore muscles.”
Zuniga added that “everybody was so happy with what we’d just accomplished, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the support we got along the route and back home.”
Tyler Vu, a junior who plays the marimba, echoed Zuniga’s gratitude.
“My Rose Parade experience was phenomenal, as I had the chance to witness the growth of many inexperienced students from the beginning of the season (as they changed) into passionate and high-performing players in front of large audiences and television – all while still having fun,” he said. “We’ve worked hard all season, making friends and growing closer every practice.”
Head drum major Joseph Cho, in his senior year, said the trip felt “bittersweet.”
“There’s obviously no better way to end a four-year career in marching band than to march in the Rose Parade,” he said, “but having made the trip to Southern California before, once in 2014 and again in 2016, the tedious bus rides and fantastic experiences at Disneyland brought a sense of nostalgia; we even made the same bus and lunch stops going to and back from Pasadena.”
Terry Anderson, president of the Homestead Music Boosters, said the Rose Parade was an incredible experience not only for the students, but also for the teachers and parents.
“It was such a wonderful feeling to see them march by, thinking about how many people around the world were watching our kids in this famous parade,” she said.
Band director John Burn shared Anderson’s excitement as well as a few fun facts: The 129th Rose Parade boasted eight broadcasts, 20 bands, 300 horses, 8 million flowers, 1 million attendees, 50 million TV viewers and 11,000 free In-N-Out burgers for band members.