Childhood, Humor, Life

Citrus Bowl My Ass. More Like Citrus Hole


playing clarinet marching band 1987 Lexington Ohio


I was reading my friend Teri’s blog post about how colleges need to start showing the entire halftime show during college football games a few weeks ago and it got me reminiscing about my high school marching band days.

Over Christmas break of 1987, my small-town Ohio high school marching band got to go to Orlando, Florida to compete in the Citrus Bowl band competition as well as march in the Citrus Bowl Parade.
This was quite exciting for our band as well as very expensive, so we had to sell things like light bulbs, oranges, and booklets to the Ponderosa Steakhouse in order to get our cheap musical asses down there.

Ponderosa gift certificates
Anyone want some “steak”?

This is the one thing that sticks with me all these years later: light bulbs? Really?
We sold them door to door not through a catalog and on a day where the rain was so hard and fast, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Did I also mention it was the day of my senior year Homecoming dance? So while most of our classmates were getting their bangs stacked up to the sky and nails all done up in neon colors at the local salon (that is NOT plural on purpose because small town), my fellow bandmates and I were trudging through the mud and muck selling GE light bulbs so we could go march our band in a ten-mile parade over Christmas break.

Selling crap for Citrus Bowl
Selling crap in order to go to Florida. Yay us. 

When you are 17 years old, you aren’t thinking about things like iron lungs or deductibles whilst standing in the rain for three hours straight. I just remember it was really difficult to light my cigarette with all of that rain getting in the way of my hooded band raincoat.

When I came down with mononucleosis a few weeks later, no one at all suspected the light bulb monsoon incident.
Everyone blamed my boyfriend, my part-time job, the stress of being a senior in high school, you need to take a multivitamin.  Blah blah blah.

Band director 1987 Lexington High School Ohio
How did this person get on our bus? Aka- our band director. Also, why is it that all band directors look alike?

Meanwhile, we were being whipped into a frenzy by our band director who was saying buzz words like, ” televised”, “sunny”, “no parents”. It was quite exciting for the bunch of us and the first huge band trip we had taken the four years I had been in high school. A great way to end our high school marching band career, I might add. So, of course, we had visions in our heads of being famous by the time we returned home.

Tour buses Lexington Ohio
We even got fancy buses. Anything other than a school bus was fancy in rural Ohio.

Because we were gonna be on TV! It was at about that time that I started working on building up my hand muscles because I needed to get ready for all that autograph signing I was going to be doing. How I worked up my hand muscles remained a mystery (AHEM). Gonna be famous! People will be lining up to get a whiff of my essence because they will recognize me from the television set! Weren’t you the one in the band uniform marching down the streets of Orlando? Why yes, that was me, thank you very much! Can I get a whiff of your essence?  SECURITY! 

It was as I was staring at the ceiling, picturing endorsement deals from Atari, Wheaties, and Reebok that I was jolted back to reality… “THEY AREN’T AIRING THE PARADE OUTSIDE OF ORLANDO”. Wait, what? “They aren’t airing the parade outside of Orlando”.

What about all of my admiring fans?
What about my parents?
What about the essence whiffer???

It turns out our entire town wouldn’t get to see the parade until we returned back from Florida.
On the local access channel.
Several weeks after the fact.
It’s okay.
We will have a viewing party!
It will be fun!
We will have snacks!
And beverages!
And then we will be famous!
Now, where did I put my good pen and paper??

Bus arriving in Orlando
Look. At. All. The. Big. Hair. I can smell the White Rain hairspray STILL. 

Once in Orlando, it was not quite the dream vacation we had envisioned.
First, we need to discuss our hotel room.
Let’s just say that it wasn’t “clean” when we got there.
Food wrappers, beer bottles, and lots and lots of used condoms.
The one thing I remember is one of my friends in the hallway saying, “it smells like sex in there” which of course made me giggle nervously out loud, fart a little, then nod knowingly because I was 17.

But in reality, I had no fucking clue what sex smelled like. 

I was the most naive 17-year-old in the history of all the 17-year-olds.
My parents didn’t know it then but THEY WERE SO LUCKY TO HAVE ME.

This comment also made me start sniffing the air like a madwoman because I really wanted to know what in the hell sex smelled like.
It doesn’t smell good, for those who don’t know yet. 

Practicing for Citrus Bowl
Marge, is that a marching band in the parking lot or are they just happy to see us?

Once our room was ready and the sex smell was less, well, sexier, we got to unpack and then go …to the pool??
I can’t remember too much about the day to day activities, but the one thing I do remember about Florida was The Olive Garden.

Because back in 1987, we didn’t have The Olive Garden in Ohio but Orlando, Florida did but this is what you really need to know about this particular Olive Garden: it was open for breakfast.


Oh Florida, you never disappoint.

Olive Garden 1987 Orlando
We thought Olive Garden was a cool breakfast place. Who knew?


We had Olive Garden for breakfast buffet every single day we were in Orlando. I do believe we had breakfast buffet four solid mornings while we lodged in Orlando proper. I wish I were making this up.

It was good as far as my memory serves but I also didn’t know what sex smelled like at this point in my life, so don’t go off of my judgment.

Lexington Band of Gold 1987
90 some strong and proud and my head is blocked by the plume of the person in front of me.


I almost forgot to tell you that we did have a moment of fame while in Orlando!
They featured our band out of all the bands at the Citrus Bowl Competition on the local newscast.
I don’t know who somebody had to sleep with to get it done but it was pretty awesome.
Enough of that was done in our hotel room before we got there.

Randy Heidlebaugh at Citrus Bowl
Actual footage of our band director being interviewed by the news station while I am the fool doing the Pee-Wee Herman dance in the background completely oblivious to the fact that the NEWS CAMERA IS RIGHT BEHIND ME. 

They interviewed our band director, microphoned our field commander, and essentially followed us around for the entire day of the competition. What they weren’t ready for were 94 Ohio teenagers who were ready for their first brush with stardom. I have never seen so many human beings in my life (me included) trying so hard to get on camera without actually looking like they were trying so hard to get on camera.

When the newscast came on the television later that night, I remember all of us huddling around as many TV sets as we could find in our sex-smelling Kissimmee hotel. I can only imagine the annoyance of the other guests to not only find out they are sharing their hotel for the week with an entire marching band from the Midwest, but to then find out that they are sharing it with wannabe celebrities with massive ego complexes.

Speaking of big heads, mine got on the news!

Kari hair at Citrus Bowl
Mighty nice braid you got there little lady.


I do believe I may have screamed, “MY BRAID IS ON THE TV!!!!!!! MY BRAID IS ON TV!!!!”

And over.
And over.
And over.
Throughout the halls of the hotel.

I even called my mom to tell her this and maybe even fought a bald woman from Dubuque for a payphone to do so.


It can’t be proven. This was before cell phones.

Thank you, baby Jesus.

The next night was the Citrus Bowl parade.


Bus drivers at Citrus Bowl
All the buses for the other bands in the parade. Who actually got parade screen time.
The parade was really pretty fun but quite exhausting.
We mostly marched in complete darkness for the entire parade because the parade was at night.
The only part that was lit up was when we reached the televised section.
It was an intersection in Orlando that was surrounded by bleachers on both sides of the street, lots of people, and blinding lights.
We were mostly keeping our “chops” (band talk for “mouths”) relaxed for this moment and also because of utter darkness along the rest of the parade route.

Marching Band close up

They actually had people who stop the bands and kind of corral them into the bleachers’ area to make sure that the flow is smooth and the bands and floats don’t bunch up like one really sad parade traffic jam played out on camera for America to see.
I do remember hearing that Spuds Mackenzie was in the parade with us and that was quite exciting at the time.

Of course, we never got to see him because we were busy marching in utter darkness.

Citrus Bowl Parade 1987
Damn dog. And is that Robin Givens?

We finally got to the part where we were in the literal spotlight and it was quite exciting!
The lights, the body heat from all the people, the nervous sweats I had goin’ on in my uniform, and the cheers of all the people!
This was it!
I could feel it!
We were going to be famous!
This little marching band from in the middle of nowhere Ohio with the big sound!
Who are they??
Where did they come from?
Who is that cute blonde playing the clarinet?

I knew Hollywood would be calling as soon as we got off the Greyhound knock-off bus that rambled us into our little town a few days later.

Lexington Band of Gold Orlando 1987
Me getting off the bus for the parade, or what I like to call my only Hollywood moment.


When I was on the payphone with my mom outside a rest area near Columbus on the way home a few days later and I didn’t hear anything that resembled a crowd in our family room, I knew something was up.
“Oh okay, you are an hour away? Sounds good! Can’t wait to see you!” 
We did have a welcome home committee.
That consisted of our parents and siblings.

1987 Marching Band return from Citrus bowl
There is my braid again. We should all know it by now because hello, famous.


Once we lifted our own suitcases out of the pile of mess they threw out of the buses…I bet Spuds didn’t have to lift his own suitcase but whatever….. we were on our way home.
My mom had my favorite foods made, a giant sign was on the garage door welcoming me home like the movie star I was.
It is about time someone treated me like the celebrity I am!
It was so good to be home.


A few weeks later, we settled down one late winter evening for the viewing party of the century.
We couldn’t wait to watch ourselves on the television set.
I think we had the public access channel on all afternoon and set to videotape even though it wasn’t supposed to air until seven o’clock that evening just in case it would randomly come on.

Teenagers would implode if they had to live back then.

So we impatiently waited by our little TV down in our family room that night until finally, it came on.
Ahh, the magic of technology!!!
The Citrus Bowl Parade!
Three weeks later.


We watched with anticipation knowing when our part was coming.
Oh! I remember that float!
Oooh, look at all that we missed!

Little bastard.

Spuds McKenzie Citrus Bowl


We danced along with the Clemson University Marching Band remembering their cadence as we didn’t march too far behind them in the actual parade.
It was fun talking about the parade and re-living Florida all over again with my family.

We noticed that all the marching bands were getting their names announced, their band directors’ names announced, and enjoyed the little anecdotes the announcers were making about each band.

Then after weeks of anticipation, I saw a familiar band banner making its way at the top of our television screen.
I could see our band hats, us marching perfectly in time, wow, we look…….perfect.

First bad omen- they said we were from a totally different town in Ohio. Like, a town two hours away from where we actually lived. It was as we were registering…wait, did they just say we were from a completely different town…..that they went to commercial.
Over our band.
They actually ran the name of the upcoming band as a graphic over our marching band, just as we were starting to come onto the television screen.

They gave a dog that drinks malt liquor more airtime than our band.
Our band who worked tirelessly for hundreds of hours to get to Florida from Ohio.
They cut us off.
I started to cry.
Then I started to scream.
Then I did what a 17-year-old female does best.
I called my friend to cry and scream about it.

Simultaneously, we both said the G rated version of “ARE YOU SHITTING ME?????”
I am being too prude.
Of course, we said,  “ARE YOU SHITTING ME??”
The phone lines in Lexington, Ohio were hot that night.
I held a grudge against Florida for a long time.
Secretly, I still do.
I still give it the side-eye when I see an orange or anything citrus related on the television or in person.
Oooh is that a clementine?
Never mind then. 

….even though they come from California STAY WITH ME PEOPLE

So the next time you are at the football game and you see me clapping a little harder or longer for the marching band, you’ll know why.
And if you see me at the grocery store stomping the hell out of an errant grapefruit?
Look the other way.


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