Londonderry's Marching Lancers add yet another exciting chapter at Inaugural Parade in D.C.
LONDONDERRY - For Londonderry High School's Marching Lancers and Colorguard, marching in the presidential Inaugural Parade was an experience defined by countless memorable moments they'll no doubt carry with them well into adulthood.
The Lancers, who also marched in the 2009 Inaugural Parade, were chosen for the honors from more than 1,500 applicants nationwide.
After a lengthy bus trip from New Hampshire early Saturday morning and a stop at a Connecticut mall on the way, the Lancers were ready to let loose at an evening dinner dance held especially for them at their hotel.
Sunday was a day of fun for the Lancers, with field trips to Fort McHenry and the National Aquarium in Baltimore, as well as lunch at the Hard Rock Café and other area eateries (with a group this size, it's tough to get everyone gathered in one space!), and dinner in Baltimore's Little Italy.
Between the nervous anticipation of the day to come and a 3 a.m. fire alarm apparently set off by a guest smoking inside one of the hotel rooms on another floor the previous evening, many members of the group got very little sleep, chaperone Mary Wing Soares said, though none appeared worse for the wear.
The trip was especially bittersweet for the senior members of the band, Soares noted, as "every event will be the last one for them - the final home game, the last holiday parade" and many took advantage of the ample photo opportunities, with the band's seniors gathering around the flag pole where Francis Scott Key's original "Star-Spangled Banner" once flew.
By early Monday morning, the 290 or so Marching Lancers and their chaperones were wide awake well before dawn for one final rehearsal at their Maryland hotel before boarding buses (six in all) bound for the nation's capital.
The team arrived at the Pentagon around 10 a.m. for security check-ins, a lengthy process that took about two hours, drum major Danielle Souza said.
"That's when (music director Andy) Soucy told us this wasn't your typical parade - it's more of a military operation," Souza said from her cell phone Monday afternoon. "There's security just about everywhere. I've never seen anything like it."
With their check-ins complete, the group ate box lunches on their buses and headed to the National Mall, where the band, dressed in their starched blue and white dress uniforms, gathered in a warming tent to stand-by for the parade's start.
Shortly before 3 p.m., Souza, a junior, was still waiting for the parade to step off before a crowd of an estimated 10,000 people.
While they'd anticipated a 4 p.m. performance, delays meant for a late start, with the Lancers marching in the parade's fifth and final segment, alongside U.S. military bands and color guards, various college bands and other high school bands from Rhode Island, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky.
By 6:20 p.m., the Lancers' young faces were broadcast on television screens all over the United States via C-SPAN as they made their way past the White House.
The Lancers return to New Hampshire today.