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Band makes final preparations for Rose Parade and Tournament of Roses Bandfest in California

The temperature hovered just above freezing on Wednesday, Dec. 8, as the nearly 400 members of the Western Carolina University Pride of the Mountains Marching Band rehearsed. Too cold to play, they sang their parts as they marched. Band members listened at attention as Bob Buckner, director of the band, helped them visualize what to expect when they perform at the Tournament of Roses Bandfest on Thursday, Dec. 30, and march in the Rose Parade on Saturday, Jan. 1, concluding with a much-needed reminder. “There, it’s 70 degrees!” Buckner promised the members who have invested countless hours with the band and raised thousands of dollars to make the trip to California.

This video was created by WCU student Joseph Hader. The website,,
will become an interactive site chronicling the band’s experience with posts, photos and video.
starting Dec. 20.

Bob Buckner (at left) director of the WCU Pride of the Mountains Marching Band reviews information for the band's upcoming trip to California to participate in the 2011 Rose Parade as Jon Henson, assistant director, shows one of the T-shirts still for sale to help the band raise money for the trip to WCU students Adam Stewart and Julie Popelka.

Bob Buckner (at left), director of the WCU Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, reviews information for the band’s upcoming trip to California to participate in the 2011 Rose Parade as Jon Henson, assistant director, shows one of the T-shirts still for sale to help the band raise money for the trip to WCU students Adam Stewart and Julie Popelka.


The WCU Pride of the Mountains Marching Band will perform the show “Rock U” during the Tournament of Roses Bandfest on Dec. 30.

“The Rose Parade is seen by millions of people from around the world, and the Pride of the Mountains will be serving as marching musical ambassadors for Western Carolina,” said Buckner. “It’s a role we accept as a high honor, and we are ready to take on the challenges – both logistical and financial – of transporting our students, their instruments and other equipment to California.”

Three trucks will carry the band’s instruments, uniforms, equipment and even band member’s luggage to California in order to save about $40,000 in checked baggage fees. Students will load the trucks Monday, Dec. 20, and then fly to California starting Dec. 28.

At Bandfest on Thursday, Dec. 30, which friends, family and fans can watch online via a Webcast available for $8.50, the band will perform their halftime show “Rock U.”

During the Rose Parade, which begins at 8 a.m. PST or 11 a.m. EST on New Year’s Day, the band will perform the song “You” by California ska band Suburban Legends, a local favorite in Orange County. Matt Henley, assistant director of the WCU marching band, said the music selection came about as he was thinking about the parade’s theme, “Building Dreams, Friendships and Memories,” and remembered a story about a California ska band called Suburban Legends. After a member of the group, trombone player Dallas Cook, died in a traffic accident, Suburban Legends held a memorial concert and directed proceeds to Cook’s high school marching band in Huntington Beach. Cook had credited his experience in high school band for much of his passion for music. Moved, Henley contacted Suburban Legends about the possibility of playing their song in the parade and building a friendship.

“We love Suburban Legends’ music, and we are excited to play their song ‘You’ in Dallas’ memory and send the message that, like him, we love band too,” said Henley. “We arranged the song for marching band, and that is what we will play on TV as we go around the corner in the parade. Part of our goal was to build a friendship from East Coast to West Coast, and we hope to get the chance to meet members of Suburban Legends while we are there.”

Band members have said they are both excited and nervous to perform in front of so many people. More than 1 million are expected to attend the parade, and more than 1.1 billion people are expected to watch the internationally televised event on TV.

“I’m actually marching in the Rose Bowl (which will be) watched by a billion people. That is a lot of stress. A lot of eyes would be on me if I fall or trip,” said Candace Rhodes, a freshman music education major from Georgia, in a video she submitted in the EYE on FYE video contest, before willing it not to go wrong. “It won’t happen. It won’t happen. It won’t happen.”

When Jeffrey Throop, president of the Tournament of Roses Association, visited WCU’s band in September, he predicted the Pride of the Mountains would be a hit in California.

“I can already tell, you are going to blow everybody away. It’s just so exciting to see you and to see your style. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Throop, who has observed more than his fair share of marching bands during his affiliation of 36 years with the Rose Parade. “I can’t wait to show you off to everyone, to the world.”

Banner for the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band

Join the Parade

Travel with the band to the Rose Parade – virtually – by visiting, which will become an interactive website on Dec. 20 and feature posts, photos and video of highlights from the band’s once-in-a-lifetime experience.

  • Enjoy photographs from the band’s trip – as well as historic photos of the band over the years – starting Dec. 20 at
  • Read short features about band members and what it took to prepare for the Rose Parade, including a story about one musician who lost 65 pounds as he prepared to march in the 5-and-a-half-mile parade.
  • Fundraising to support the band is still ongoing. Proceeds from the sale of “Pride to Pasadena” apparel at Catamount Clothing and Gifts and lapel pins from the band office support the Pride to Pasadena effort. Gifts also can be made online at the Giving to WCU website. In honor of gifts of $1,000 or more, the band will spell the names of donors on the field. See what the longest name was – and how long it took to form it – Dec. 20 at
  • Watch the parade live, starting at 11 a.m. EST New Year’s Day on ABC, NBC, HGTV, Tribune, Univision, Telemundo, Travel Channel, Discovery HD Theater or Sky Link TV.
  • Check out the band’s parade rehearsal on Sunday, Dec. 19, from 1 to 5 p.m. Highway 107 from Forest Hills Road to the walking bridge will be closed to enable the band to practice marching the parade’s full distance. No vehicles or pedestrians will be allowed to stop on the highway to watch, but can park on campus and watch from the walking bridge over the highway.

By Teresa Killian Tate

Categories | The Reporter

Photos | WCU News Services

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