I will never forget this trip.
Now I want a clementine.
First published October 19, 2015
I was reading my friend Teri’s blog post about how colleges need to show the full halftime show during football games, 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 earned the chance to travel to Orlando, Florida to compete in the Citrus Bowl Parade and Marching Band Competition.
While this was very exciting and an honor for our band, it was also rather costly. So we had to sell items such as light bulbs, oranges, and booklets to the local Ponderosa Steakhouse in order to bring our tubas, clarinets, and piccolos down there.
This is the one element that remains with me all these years afterward; light bulbs?
We peddled them door to door, not through a catalog, and during a monsoon which also was the day of my senior homecoming dance? While most of my classmates were getting ready for the big dance, we were stumbling through the mud selling General Electric light bulbs.
Meanwhile, we were being whipped into a frenzy by our band director who was delivering buzz words such as,
It was very exciting for the 94 of us because it was the first significant band trip we had taken the four years I had been in high school.
A perfect act to close our high school marching band career.
Every summer, our band traveled an hour away to a church camp in the middle of nowhere to a weeklong sleep-away band camp.
Some of us joked on the bus ride there that the reason it was in the middle of nowhere was so they couldn’t hear our screams.
And the reason it was at a church camp was so they could live with themselves. 🙂
The instructors packed band camp with five, ten-hour days in the sun where we would learn our “show” and bond with each other and our instructors. Besides the five days a week practices (rain or shine) we had over the course of six months.
We earned this trip to the Citrus Bowl, beating out hundreds of other bands from across the United States. It was more exciting than I think even our own parents understood.
When we found out that the parade we were marching in was going to be on television, we had visions of being famous by the time we returned home.
It was just as I was thinking about my endorsements for Nikes and Wheaties when our band director yanked me back to reality by telling us, “they aren’t airing the parade outside of Orlando”.
It turns out our entire town wouldn’t get to see the parade until we returned from Florida.
Once in Orlando, it was not the dream vacation we had expected. Our hotel room? Let’s just say that it wasn’t “fresh” when we arrived. Food wrappers, beer bottles, and lots and lots of used condoms. Motley Crue would be blushing.
It was as we all parted to go to our assigned rooms that one of my friends said something I won’t ever forget. She sniffs the room, and says, “it smells like sex in there “. This of course caused me to giggle, and a fart came out accidentally. The fart got more attention than her statement, which irks me to this day, but whatever.
After my friends walked away from the room, I sniffed the room because I wished to experience what in the hell sex smelled like.
It doesn’t smell good for those who don’t know.
Once our room was ready and the sex smell was less, sexier, we got to unpack and then GO TO THE POOL?
WE GOT TO GO TO BAND PRACTICE!
WHILE IN ORLANDO FLORIDA!
We Ohioans sure know how to have a good time. I can’t remember too much about the day-to-day activities, but the one thing I distinctly remember was The Olive Garden. Because in 1987, we didn’t have The Olive Garden in Ohio but Orlando, Florida did! But this Olive Garden was special; it was open for breakfast. Yes. Breakfast.
We had Olive Garden as a breakfast buffet every single morning we were in Orlando and I have to say; it was delicious!
But I also didn’t know what sex smelled like at this point in my life, so don’t go off of my judgment.
I almost neglected to mention that we had a moment of greatness while in Orlando! They featured our band at the Citrus Bowl Competition on the local newscast. I don’t know who the band director had to sleep with to make it happen, but it was pretty cool!
* NO ONE HAD TO SLEEP WITH ANYONE*
There were ample amounts of that going on in our hotel room before we got there.
All that matters is that my French braid got on the five o’clock news.
I even called my mom to tell her this.
Also, I do believe I may have screamed, “MY BRAID IS ON THE TV!!! MY BRAID IS ON THE TV!!”, throughout the halls of the sex hotel.
The Citrus Bowl Parade was the following evening.
To be honest, the parade was fun but exhausting. We marched in darkness for most of it because they held it at night.
WHO HOLDS A PARADE AT NIGHT?
The only part of the parade that was illuminated was the televised segment.
But for the rest of the parade? Darkness except for random intersections.
Our band director didn’t want us to get tired, so we didn’t play our instruments for most of the parade, so it was marching in silence to the cadence of our drumline or just silence.
In the dark.
For ten miles.
That was our Citrus Bowl Parade experience.
They had individuals whose jobs it was to hold the bands and corral them into the bleachers’ area. They make certain that the movement is continuous and the bands and floats don’t pile up like one depressing parade traffic jam on camera.
I recall discovering that Spuds Mackenzie was in the parade with us, and that felt exciting. Of course, we never got to see him.
Because of sheer darkness.
I’m not bitter.
We finally got to the part where we were in the spotlight, and it felt exhilarating.
The lights and the cheers of all the people were pretty amazing. Our band director told us ahead of time to keep playing the song we had rehearsed for this moment, Wade in the Water.
Then we took a long bus ride straight home from Florida to Ohio.
A few weeks after, we gathered one winter evening for the long-awaited viewing party of the Citrus Bowl Parade. We kept the public access channel on all afternoon and set to videotape, even though it wasn’t set to air until seven o’clock that evening. Just in case it would randomly begin playing.
We danced along with the Clemson University Marching Band; I remembered their cadence as we marched behind them in the parade. It was fun chatting about the parade and re-living Florida all over with my family.
We commented that all the marching bands were getting their names declared, their band directors’ names announced, and we enjoyed the anecdotes the broadcasters were conducting about each band.
THAT WILL BE US SOON!
Suddenly, after months of anticipation, I noticed a recognizable marching band banner making its way to the top of our television screen.
“HERE WE COME!!”, I screeched a little too loud.
I could see our hats marching in time, our cadence ringing powerful. I was so proud of us. We looked beautiful.
The first bad sign was the announcer reading we were from a different town in Ohio. A town two hours south of our little town; identical in name but with the word New in front of it.
Then as we were all registering, “did he say the wrong name?”, they went to commercial.
They actually ran the graphic of the upcoming band over our marching band, just as we were coming into full view on the screen.
To express that this was a punch in the face is an understatement.
They provided a dog that pretends to drink malt liquor more airtime than our marching band. Teenagers who worked for hundreds of hours to go to Florida. For some of those teenagers, it had been the first time they had been out of Ohio.
I realize we didn’t work hard simply to be on television, but it was a bonus.
We waited for the commercial to be over to see if maybe they were nice enough to show us after, but we all know that’s not how it works.
I held a grudge against Florida for a long time.
Secretly, I still do.
I give it the side-eye when I see an orange or anything citrus related on the television or at the grocery store.
THAT’S RIGHT TANGERINE, I WANT NOTHING YOU ARE SELLING!
Oh wait, is that a clementine?
So the next time you are at the football game, clap a little harder for the marching band, will you?
And if you ever see me at the grocery store furiously stomping a citrus fruit?
Look the other way.