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Alumni and friends are invited to join the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band at the 2011 Rose Parade
By BILL STUDENC

Bob Buckner ’67, your Pride of the Mountains has just won the Sudler Trophy, the nation’s highest honor for collegiate marching bands. What are you going to do next?

“I’m going to Disneyland,” Buckner might reply, except for one fact. Buckner and the 350-plus members of the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band will be too busy getting ready for – and participating in – the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif.

That doesn’t mean that fans of the marching musical unit often referred to as “the world’s largest funk rock band” can’t squeeze in a visit to the so-called “happiest place on earth.” The university is organizing alumni and booster packages so that family members and others can accompany the band on the trip, set for Dec. 29 through Jan. 2.

Although details were still being ironed out at press time, a variety of packages are in the works and are expected to include accommodations for up to five nights in a Los Angeles-area hotel, tickets to the band’s pre-parade performance at Bandfest, tickets to the 2011 Rose Parade, local transportation and evening special events.

Come With Us!

The band is seeking sponsors to help defray the cost of the trip, estimated at between $1,600 and $1,700 per student. “It is a supreme honor for our band to represent our university and our state on such a grand stage, and it’s especially exciting to be invited to march in the Tournament of Roses Parade the same year we’ve been awarded the Sudler Trophy,” said Buckner, director of athletic bands at WCU since 1991. “It is going to require a lot of effort on the part of our students to prepare, and we need to raise some funds to enable us to make the cross-country trip.”

In addition to travel and accommodations for band members and staff, the university also must transport the Pride of Mountain’s instruments and elaborate staging to California. “It’s not going to be inexpensive to be able to accept this invitation, but it will certainly be worth it for the experience of a lifetime for our students and for the international exposure it will mean for Western Carolina University,” Buckner said.

Surprise announcement of the band’s invitation to take part in the Rose Parade came during a ceremony recognizing WCU as winner of the 2009 Sudler Trophy. Representatives of the John Philip Sousa Foundation officially presented the award – a prize that has been called the “Heisman Trophy” of the collegiate marching band world – at halftime of WCU’s home football game Oct. 24.

Band members were wearing yellow rose boutonnieres with purple ribbons on their uniforms for the Sudler presentation, thinking the adornments were representing the university’s colors, when they learned of the Rose Parade selection from the public address announcer.

“The Tournament of Roses has selected Western Carolina University to participate in ‘America’s New Year’s Celebration’ because of your band’s excellent musical talents, entertainment value, performance skills, and your outstanding directorship,” Stacy Houser, chair of the parade’s music selection committee, said in a letter to Buckner.

The Pride of the Mountains is one of only 15 bands from around the world invited to participate in the 122nd Tournament of Roses Parade and the 29th annual affiliated event known as Bandfest, joining six annual invitees for a total of 21 bands taking part.

Called “the Super Bowl of marching bands,” the parade is held annually on New Year’s Day in conjunction with the Rose Bowl college football game, part of the Bowl Championship Series. “The parade will be watched by 1 million people live, and an additional 1.5 billion around the world on television,” said Jim Hahn, the parade’s master of ceremonies and music adviser for the tournament.