Neighbors | Submitted .In spite of unseasonable weather, the Austintown Fitch High School band practices outside of Fitch High School to prepare for the National Cherry Blossom Parade in Washington D.C. Pictured is Band Director Wesley O’Connor leading the practice.
The Austintown Fitch High School marching band performed in the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in Washington, D.C. on April 14.
The school was one of 13 bands from across the nation selected to participate.
The National Cherry Blossom Parade has been listed as one of the top six festival and parades in the United States.
On March 20, in spite of unseasonable weather, the band conducted one of its four “spring training” marching practices outside of Fitch High School. Since the marching band’s break from performances during football games they have not had marching practice. The spring training was in preparation of the National Cherry Blossom Parade. The two-hour procession travelled along Constitution Ave. and marked the conclusion of the four-week long Cherry Blossom Festival. The festival takes place in March and April and commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Tokyo to the nation’s capital. The parade draws an on-site audience of more than 150,000 people and is nationally syndicated to an estimated 82 percent of U.S. television markets.
“I am incredibly proud and honored to be a part of this special group of young men and women,” said Wesley O’Connor, Fitch High School Director of Bands. “The Austintown Fitch band, the parents and community are an incredible group of people who helped us achieve this tremendous honor. I can think of no better venue than to see the Fitch band march past the Washington Monument with red, white and blue uniforms playing ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’”
Approximately 147 people, including students, staff and chaperones will travel for this opportunity. It will cost the band more than $75,000 to make the trip. To help with the associated costs, the band parents’ organization created fundraising opportunities throughout the year.
“From sausage and fruit sales to our Jazz and Dessert Festival, our parents and students worked hard to earn this trip,” O’Connor said.
The trip was organized by Todd Wessel of Bob Rogers Travel Company.
While in Washington D.C., on April 13, the morning prior to the parade, the band was hosted by the Air Force’s Ceremonial Brass who conducted a marching and drum clinic for the band members at Joint Base Anacostia Bolling. The Ceremonial Brass organized all musical programs at Arlington National Cemetery. The band also performed a concert at the World War II Memorial Saturday evening. They have dubbed the trip as their “Honoring our Heroes” tour.
The band obtained permission from the National Park Service to lay a wreath at the Vietnam Memorial to honor three Fitch graduates who gave their lives for our country. The band presented a custom wreath with the names of Class of ’62 members 2nd Lt. Charles Brown and Sgt. James Prommersberger and Class of ’66 graduate PFC Darryl Dombroski. The band also concluded their trip on April 15 by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
“We are so excited to travel to our nation’s capital and represent the Austintown Community and the Austintown Local School District,” O’Connor said. “We are thrilled and honored to take the Fitch band’s tradition of patriotism to our nation’s capital and we are so proud to be able to honor our heroes while we are in DC.”
For more information or to contribute to the band’s fund-raising efforts, visit www.afband.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.