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Bands Play On Despite the Rainfall

College and high school marchers keep a sunny disposition as they look toward the Rose Parade.

January 01, 2006|Jason Felch | Times Staff Writer

Tubas were filling with water. Trombone slides were slipping. Trumpet keys kept getting stuck.

And rain-soaked uniforms clung heavily to knees Saturday morning as the marching bands -- thrilled invitees to the 117th Rose Parade -- stomped through the swamp that once was Pasadena City College's football field.

Like last year, this year's Bandfest, a two-day spectacle of field-marching performances, was buffeted by bad weather, at least on Saturday. But players, parents and parade officials held out some hope that the skies would rain themselves dry before Monday's parade.

By afternoon, hope gave way to wet, and the bands, all built for outdoor competition, retreated indoors.

Still, the 26 college and high school marching bands that traveled from as far as Fukuoka, Japan, and Sonora, Mexico, for the chance to show off their high-stepping musical maneuvers refused to allow the muck and gloomy forecasts to dampen their spirits.

"They've had a great attitude toward it all," said Mark Leavens, a Bandfest organizer. "Some even asked to perform outside, despite the rain."

And why not?

"We love rain; we're kids," said Saray Pinon, a self-described band geek from Foshay Learning Center near USC and a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District's special marching band, made up of students from 49 city schools. "Sometimes in these hot uniforms, it's refreshing. It gives you energy to keep on playing."

"There are a lot of sniffles, but people are excited," added Irvin Zavaleta, a 16-year-old trumpet player from Gardena High.

L.A. Unified's was one of several bands that marched through a constant drizzle in Pasadena City College's stadium Saturday morning before the performances were finally moved indoors at 2:30 p.m., when the second round of competition began.

The morning was a challenge to parents as well as to marchers. As their numb fingers gripped dripping digital cameras, some band mothers joked that the weather gave new meaning to the parade's many floats.

"It's hard to find her, with her hair wet," said band mother Shirley Kruse, scanning the field for her daughter Hannah, a member of the color guard for the 370-player-strong band of North and Central Pickerington high schools, from a suburb of Columbus, Ohio.

Hannah was one of a dozen young women in sleeveless shirts heaving large rain-soaked flags over their heads, trying to keep their footing on the wet turf.

The band was accustomed to the cold, Kruse said -- earlier in December it played in freezing weather at a Cleveland Browns game. But the students were hoping the Rose Parade's famous dry, sunny weather would be waiting for them.

"The girls were hoping to get a little sun," Kruse said. "They picked this year to break the tradition."

Still, spirits were high.

"We've had a number of sick already, but they're pretty determined kids," Kruse said.

Later in the afternoon, performances were moved into the college's John Sexson Auditorium, whose thousand-plus seats were packed with parents and fans.

Scott Caylor, 18, of Fayetteville, Ark., flew to Los Angeles with his family to meet his sister Gina, who had taken the 36-hour bus ride with the 270-member Fayetteville High band. He said he remembers thinking, "It never rains in Southern California."

When the band played at last year's Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, students thought the dry, 50-degree weather was a bit chilly, Caylor said. On Saturday, they performed in Rose Parade warm-up jackets because their uniforms had been soaked through during a morning tour of parade floats.

"They weren't expecting this," Caylor said. "In Arkansas, when it rains, the bands pack up and leave."

Luckily, the 640-member Allen, Texas, High School band -- which travels in 18 school buses and three tractor-trailers full of equipment -- had performed outside Friday, when the weather was still fair.

Another band of Texans, the University of Texas Longhorn Band, was here to blare support for its football team, which plays USC on Wednesday for the national college football championship. Its 375 members barely fit on the auditorium stage. As the crowd floated the Longhorn's two-fingered salute, the band played the Beatles' "She Loves You" and several Texas favorites.

Outside the auditorium, the rain had stopped -- at least for the day -- and patches of blue could be seen between the clouds.

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