Bands warm up for W.Va. inauguration

January 14, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. -- After one bone-chilling trip around the gravel track at Hedgesville High School, marching band color guard co-captain Michelle Mitchell had enough.

"I can't feel my fingers," Michelle told a fellow color guard member Wednesday afternoon while practicing the "Manhattan Beach March" by John Philip Sousa for the West Virginia gubernatorial inaugural parade scheduled for Monday morning in Charleston, W.Va.

Sixty-five members of the school's marching band, along with contingents from Martinsburg Berkeley Springs and Paw Paw high schools, are among 34 high schools expected to take part in the parade, according to Gov. Joe Manchin's office.

Bands from West Virginia and Marshall universities also are marching in the parade, which was reinstituted in 2005. Before that, it was last organized in 1973 for Gov. Arch Moore's inauguration.


Though looking forward to a final band trip in her senior year, Michelle, 17, said she wasn't looking forward to "a really long parade in the freezing cold."

Hedgesville band director Corey Hamrick smiled when he described Wednesday's drill as "endurance training," but expects weather conditions to be a little better by Monday morning, when the parade is scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

The parade route is about 1 mile long, according to Berkeley Springs' band director Lee Cheek.

"This will be a nice make-up (trip) for them," said Cheek, whose band did not travel to any away football games last fall.

After winning approval from school administrators for the trip, Cheek said reserving a charter bus for the band was a bit of challenge because of the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C.

Because it was cost-prohibitive for the band to stay at a hotel, Cheek said they are planning to leave for Charleston at 1 a.m. Monday and return almost immediately afterward.

Paw Paw band director Ian Helmick said their band will leave for the state capital at 2 a.m. after the 35-member group has a Sunday night "lock-in" party at the school.

"It's going to be a whirlwind of a trip," Helmick said. "Everybody's really excited about it."

Helmick said the trip to Charleston will be the band's "biggest event" since he was hired as director in 2002.

"Usually, we go to the Strawberry Festival in Buckhannon (W.Va.)," Helmick said of the band's annual trip.

Helmick said the band would perform a version of "Country Roads" by John Denver.

"I don't know how many bands are going to be doing that one," Helmick said. "But it's West Virginia, how can you not?"

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