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Helmut Schmidt, Published January 15 2013

VIDEO: Fergus Falls marching band to play in inaugural parade

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. - Fergus Falls High School is sending 127 Yankee Doodle dandies to Washington, D.C.

The Otters’ marching band is in its final preparations to play in Monday’s inaugural parade for President Barack Obama’s second term.

There was a buzz of anticipation at Sunday night’s final marching rehearsal.

Junior Cassandra Eerdmans was donning marching shoes and ready to take up the Minnesota flag in the color guard.

“It’s pretty exciting. Cool. I feel patriotic,” Eerdmans said. “I’m sort of still in denial. I think that once I get there, I’ll start feeling pretty nervous.”

Senior Samantha Velde looks forward to when the band passes the reviewing stand and turns to look at the president and sing “Yankee Doodle.”

Her only worry is that her trombone slide might fall off while marching.

“You’ve got to keep marching like it never happened,” she said.

The band learned it was accepted for the inaugural parade a few days before Christmas. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of practice and fundraising.

This is the second time a Fergus Falls High School band has been to an inaugural parade. The first time was in 2009 for Obama’s first-term inauguration.

Thanks to community groups, businesses and individuals, more than $60,000 was raised to pay for the band’s bus trip, hotels, and meals, band director Scott Kummrow said.

“We’re so thankful for everyone that’s contributed. It’s overwhelming the support we’ve gotten,” he said.

It’s not the middle of the summer parade season, but the band is ready, Kummrow said.

“Parade-wise, they’re perfect. They’re flawless. They sacrificed a lot during Christmas break,” he said.

That would include Saturday mornings marching the halls of the local mall before it opened.

“I’m really excited. It’s going to be a real honor,” senior clarinet player Kayla Evavold said. “It’s a great way to celebrate my senior year.”

Junior Andrew Johnson will be wheeling along in his wheelchair and playing the cymbals.

“It’s great,” he said. “Playing for the president and being with friends.”

There were about 2,800 applications to march in this year’s parade. Kummrow figures the band’s traditional marching style and focus on patriotic music is what got them on the parade roster.

“We focus on our military precision, both with our feet, and with the angle of our instruments,” he said. “We’re traditional, I guess. That’s what gets us there.”

The band will wear white uniforms with maroon and gold accents. Members’ helmets are white with maroon and gold accents and a maroon feather. White shoes. White gloves.

Color guard members will wear black dresses with gold-sequined vests.

Bass drummer junior Al Suek looks forward to “getting to march in front of all those people.”

He was hanging tough, even as his instrument hung from his shoulders at Sunday’s rehearsal.

“It will be interesting. I’m not as conditioned as I was in the summer,” when the band marches in five or six parades, he said.

Students finish their final exams on Thursday, and then comes a two-day bus trip to Washington.

During the inaugural parade, the band will play and sing the lyrics to “Yankee Doodle” on the parade route. Kummrow hopes to time it so he can have the band singing the song as it passes the president and his family in review.

The band will be accompanied by 14 chaperones, including Shelle and Kevin Sandmeyer, whose son, Austin, is a senior trumpet player.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime honor. For some of these kids, it might be the only time they get to the East Coast,” Kevin Sandmeyer said.

So far, temperatures in Washington has been in the 40s during the day. But the weather can turn quickly, Kummrow said.

In 2009, it was 17 degrees with a brisk wind, he said.

“These kids are pretty tough, though,” he said. “If it’s in the mid-30s, we’re Midwesterners. We can handle it.”

Kummrow said the trip is not about getting national attention. Rather, it’s about band members giving their best effort.

“What I hope what the kids get out of it is a sense of community pride,” Kummrow said. “Like a lot of sports, you leave everything on the court. For us, the court is a mile and a half of pavement.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583