WHITESBURG — The Letcher County Central marching band and JROTC may be trading the mountains for the hills in the coming weeks — one hill in particular — after being chosen as the only representative from Kentucky to march in the Presidential Inauguration Parade this year.
Band Director and instrumental music teacher Dr. Jason Griffith said he and everyone at the school is thrilled to have been given an opportunity to represent this region and the state on Capitol Hill.
“We sent in the application right around election time, and we didn’t hear anything for five or six weeks. We just kind of figured, well we didn’t make it,” Griffith said. “Then on the 18th of December, out of the blue, we got a call from the committee that said the military commission that chooses the groups … had chosen us in the first round. We almost didn’t believe it.”
Griffith said the announcement was made on the last day of school in December that they were one of the 130 groups chosen out of 2,800 applicants.
“So, ever since that point the community has really rallied around trying to find a way for us to pay for some pretty expensive costs,” Griffith said.
Griffith said these costs come to about $75,000 and include everything from travel, hotel, and food costs to added expenses to help prepare for the extreme temperatures the band will most likely face at the Capitol.
According to The Washington Post, hotel guests will pay, on average, $605 to stay in Washington, D.C. for one night on the weekend of the inauguration.
Efforts were started to raise money for the trip as soon as Griffith got the call, and as of Thursday the band had collected just over $30,000.
The band will be holding fundraisers, collecting donations, and trying to meet their monetary goal in the next week, Griffith said. He encourages the community to come show support for the LCC band because they are not just representing Letcher County.
“A program that really didn’t exist six years ago is now playing for the whole world, you know,” Griffith said, “and they’re representing the state in front of the president. It’s pretty awesome.”
Senior Alex Fickey, drum major and six year veteran of the band, has been one of the students who have taken on a bigger leadership role since being chosen to march in the parade. Besides encouraging her band mates to play their best, Fickey said she has also been trying to prepare them for the elements that will be out of their control.
“We told the students up front, it can be from negative 10 to 60 degrees, and chances are it will not be 60 degrees,” Fickey said.
Presley Lloyd, field sergeant and senior, said she was overwhelmed by the news that she and her band had been chosen to perform for the president. However, she knows there will be a lot of elements working against them that, as a band whose season usually ends in November, they’re not used to.
“It’s really, really different to play in the cold than it is in the heat because your instrument tunes differently with the cold,” Lloyd said. “Normally, in the summertime, you’re just thinking about how your arms hurt from holding your horn up, but now you’re thinking about how your fingers are numb and how you want to stop shaking but you can’t because you have to play.”
Besides trying to collect enough money in time for the trip, Griffith has also been preparing the band physically for the four mile parade route.
“We’ve been running,” Fickey said. “Me and some other students have been taking time, like after practice, even if we’re wore out, we’ll go to the rec center downtown and run and run and run some more.”
Griffith added that preparation for the parade actually started many years before the application was even sent out.
“This has actually been a process for us since about 2007,” Griffith said.
Griffith and his staff had been reviewing tapes of past parades, pinpointing what it is they thought the committee looked for in candidates.
“We made sure the JROTC was a part of it because they’re a part of the military tradition and the band traditions, and because we do games with them and we do other performances with them,” Griffith said.
Fickey said she realizes a lot of people may not usually support a school marching band as much as they would a football or basketball team, but now the community should look at things differently.
“We’re not a football team, we’re not a basketball team, you don’t go watch us go at it and show our abilities all the time,” Fickey said. “But this time, now we’re it, this is a big thing for Eastern Kentucky.”
Donations for the band can be sent to Sandy Hogg as 224 Park St. Whitesburg, KY 41858.