Marching into Spring
As we are well into the hot and humid days of summer, it’s hard to remember that just a few months ago the tiny signs of spring were just beginning to blossom. This year, the Westwood Marching Band from Austin, Texas had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC – one of the nation’s greatest celebrations of spring! The 221 member band, under the direction of Jack Green, was awarded the prestigious opportunity to march in the Cherry Blossom Parade and spent four days performing and exploring all that Washington, DC has to offer!
The Cherry Blossom Festival begins every year on the last Sunday of March and continues through early April, and celebrates not only the arrival of spring, but also the friendship between the citizens of Japan and the United States. In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo gifted over 3,000 cherry trees to the city of Washington, DC to honor the continued close relationship between the two countries. The trees were planted around the perimeter of the Tidal Basin and, when in bloom, provide a breath-taking backdrop of vibrant pale pink and white flowers for the Washington Monument, museums and memorials. The festival has grown over the years from a one-day ceremonial planting to a three-week, city-wide event with more than 200 international cultural performances.
In addition to the events of the Festival, ETA arranged plenty of activities to give the group the opportunity to see as much of Washington, DC as possible. They went on guided tours of the monuments and Arlington Cemetery, visited various Smithsonian Museums, and always kept their eyes peeled for a possible Obama-sighting. As part of their tour, the Westwood Marching Band was able to view the Changing of the Guard Ceremony (http://blog.etadventures.com/walking-the-mat/) and even took part in the wreath laying service. Afterwards, one of the students in the ceremony said, “Laying our school wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a very moving experience that I won’t ever forget.”
The Festival Parade is one of the largest spectator events in Washington and travels down historic Constitution Avenue. With magnificent floats, giant character balloons, celebrity talent and marching bands, people line the street for blocks to enjoy this high-energy celebration. After the parade, one of the Westwood Band members commented that, “Marching in the Cherry Blossom Parade and having so many strangers applaud for us was an experience of a lifetime!” According to the Festival’s website, “Marching bands are an integral part of the mix; the pageantry, musical selection, colors, marching style, and auxiliary contributions help create a stunning presentation.” Being accepted into the Festival is a huge honor and a very competitive endeavor. The Festival accepts applications from all types of bands, including middle schools, but the group must have at least 100 members. So put down your sunscreen, get your applications ready and start marching your group towards next year’s sure-to-be exciting Cherry Blossom Festival!