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'PURE EXCITEMENT': Rockford band returns home after historic performance

The Rockford High School Marching Band performed in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California on Monday.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As part of the Rockford High School Marching Band gets off two Great Lakes Motorcoach buses, they seem a bit tired. But you'll have to excuse them, because the last 48 hours have been a whirlwind of activity for them.

For example, band director Brian Phillips says he only slept one hour last night after leading his band to the Tournament of Roses Parade Monday morning. But it was worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The band had an early wake-up call the day of the parade. They had a quick breakfast, got into full uniform, got on the bus, and waited for their moment in the California sun.

"You're surrounded by the other bands. You're warming up. You kind of check out the little live feed of the parade. You know that it started. The bombers fly overhead. And then you hit you hit the road and they start playing, and it's just incredible," Phillips said.

"It was pure excitement. It really was."

The trip has been the culmination of nearly 14 months of work, after the band learned at a community performance in November 2021, that they'd be performing at the parade.

"It was a great feeling just to be there with all my friends and just feeling so successful that we've put in these four hard years of work," said senior drum major Tommy McGovern.

"It was really great to go around the corners and see the mountains of California up there with all those people lining the streets. It was really awesome to see."

Thirty-six years ago, the Rockford Band participated in the Rose Parade and the band members who were part of that group are living proof that the current band will remember this experience for the rest of their lives.

"Our band that went in 1986, I still talk to those adults, and they still talk about the trip. I hope that our students will do the same thing. Whether they're ready to process that right now or not. I don't know," Phillips said.

"For me, [I have] just immense pride in the program, in this the work that the students are putting out. To be able to share that stage with the incredible bands from around the world that are there, it was just an unforgettable experience."

McGovern was quick to give credit to all the people behind the scenes who have helped make this trip happen.

"That means everything. I mean the community got us here. There's really no other way to put it. They got us here with all their support, their time, their volunteering, the money that they put forward to this trip. We couldn't have gotten there without them," he said.

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