WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) – Eight Central and Northwoods Wisconsin high schools will band together to form the 430-member Northwoods Marching Band at the prestigious Tournament of Roses Parade next January.
“We are looking for moments of happiness in this world,” Wausau East Band manager Rob Perkins said as he and the band’s other seven managers accepted their invitation flags. He adds that this is especially true for students whose typical high school experiences have been interrupted by COVID-19, which has also thrown a wrench into the planning process of creating the group.
“We’re getting back to what we do, and what we do so well. Now we can gel it and show that the music is alive and well. We have been riding for the past two years and doing our best. Now you will be able to see something that is better than our best,” he added.
The seed was planted when Amy Wainscott, a graduate of Northland Pines High School and president and chair of the 2023 Tournament of Roses, approached her Alma Mater to participate in the event. While they were thrilled, they also noted that their marching band was quite small. From there, discussions took place with other schools at their conference and eventually expanded to include schools in the Wausau area as well.
Perkins says he got involved in the talks before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the spring 2020 semester for many schools. Talks have continued during the pandemic, and the group has come together for their first tryouts at several 4th of July parades in 2021.
The schools involved will be Wausau East, DC Everest, Mosinee, Three Lakes, Antigo, Merrill, Lakeland Union and Northland Pines. Together they will be known as the ‘Northwoods Marching Band’ and will comprise a roster of approximately 430 students. All received formal invitations Thursday from Wainscott.
“It was extended to virtually anyone who was interested in our area,” Perkins said.
Wainscott said it was important to her that her hometown be represented because traditionally the only schools in Wisconsin selected to participate were from Green Bay, Milwaukee or Madison. It’s the first time a school from central or northern Wisconsin has been invited and the first time in the 130-year history of the Tournament of Roses that multiple schools have combined for parade entry.
Before presenting the invitation flags, Wainscott called each of the eight schools gathered in the Wausau East Auditorium to formally ask if they were interested in participating in the parade. Everyone gave a loud and proud “yes”, with a few ironic cries of “NO” as well.
The band will perform an original arrangement written by former University of Wisconsin bands director Mike Leckrone, who was scheduled to be present for Thursday’s ceremony but was unable to attend.
The group has conducted several five-hour workouts over the past few weeks and will take part in six Fourth of July parades this Monday. Perkins says from here they will meet monthly for three-hour practices, expanding to several times a month in November and December before leaving for Pasadena.
Perkins says if the band wins any of the awards given out after the parade, he thinks it should be on display in Northland Pines, but adds he could ‘find a way’ to get it into his office for a day or two as well.