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Band bound for parades in California

OFF TO CALIFORNIA — The Fairmont High School marching band steps along Downtown Plaza in Fairmont during the Interlaken Heritage Days parade earlier this month.

Fairmont High School’s marching band is gearing up to embark on a 10-day trip to San Diego and Los Angeles.

More than 100 students, 12 adult chaperones and band director Kate Kallenbach will make the trip, which will last July 2-11.

This week, those who are going on the trip have had several early morning marching band practices in preparation.

In order to get everyone and everything to the West Coast, two buses and an airplane will be utilized.

“Instead of getting a third bus, it was cheaper for us to fly eight students and two chaperones. It saved us about $15,000, so we were able to add some other things to the trip,” Kallenbach said.

She has taken students on many band trips over the years, with her first being in 1986. However, Fairmont High School has been taking band trips well before that. Kallenbach knows her mother went on a band trip to Seattle when she was a Fairmont student in the 1950s or early 1960s.

“We used to go every three years but now we go every two years,” said Kallenbach, explaining that by traveling every two years, it gives students the opportunity to go on two trips while in high school, or it allows students the chance to go once if they are not able to make or afford the other trip.

Students who have finished eighth grade through those who have just graduated are able to go along. This last school year, Kallenbach said there were about 170 students in grades 9-12 in band, with another 105 in seventh and eighth grade. There were 45 seniors, the largest senior class she has had.

The last trip the band took was two years ago to the East Coast, with stops in Washington, D.C., Boston and New York. Kallenbach said students get to vote on where they go each time. San Diego and Los Angeles was the favorite this time around.

“We have two performances when we’re there, one in each city,” Kallenbach explained.

The first is on Coronado Island in San Diego on the Fourth of July. That will be a parade so large that there are sections with bleachers, with tickets sold for those sections.

“I am so excited for them to march down there because it’s an experience so many of them have never had,” Kallenbach said. “To have a group come from Minnesota, there will be so much cheering. It’s really exciting.”

The second march is July 9 at Disneyland, where students also will spend the day as tourists.

“[Disneyland is] truly a performing arts theme park,” Kallenbach said. “They have their whole regimented structure. They have very specific details about your marching that you can and cannot do. So with the same music we’ll be doing two different routines.”

Kallenbach explained that at the theme park, the walkways are more narrow and Disneyland does not want flags hitting the patrons.

The students will wear their normal marching band uniforms for both performances on the trip.

With 106 students going, there are as many pieces of band equipment accompanying them. This means packing the buses will be a little challenging. Kallenbach said they plan to put all the luggage and instruments below the bus and keep the uniforms above them on the inside of the bus.

“It’s a lot to haul and you have to be careful about how you pack it,” she said. “We always carry extra uniform parts just in case and I bring a tool box in case we have instrument repairs that need to be done. You try to expect the unexpected. You just do your best and go with the flow.”

Other activities planned include a trip to Sea World, made possible by the money they saved on transportation.

“Right afterward, we have prime seating outside Sea World to watch fireworks over the bay,” Kallenbach noted.

Some students who will make the trip shared that they are most excited for Disneyland, Sea World, beach days and the San Diego Zoo.

Students raise funds to help defray trip expenses. Local groups — such as Kiwanis and Band Boosters — also have donated.

As for chaperones, Kallenbach tries to find a mix of school personnel and parents; male and female; some who have taken a trip with her before and some who have not; and medical personnel.

“It’s quite a process picking chaperones,” she noted. “I have really great people who volunteer to chaperone but I get about 30 to 35 people each time who want to chaperone and I can’t take them all.”

Even though planning a trip with so many students takes a lot of time and preparation, it is something the school has kept going over the years. Fairmont’s choir and orchestra programs also take trips, though they try to alternate years with the band trips.

“It’s a great opportunity for our kids,” Kallenbach said. “I know what it does for brain development and social skills and responsibility, and I would hate to see the program go because it’s just so beneficial for our kids. We’re pretty fortunate to have this.”

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