BHS band performs at Disney World
A group of 88 sleepy-eyed Baldwin High School students, sponsors and chaperones started out on their Florida adventure early on Saturday March 31 very early.
After the drug dogs checked our bags, we loaded and boarded the buses in the rain. Even at 4 a.m. there was excitement in the air. Shelby Schafer was looking forward to the trip, and the early hours didn't bother her too much. Lindsay Thompson was excited about seeing Mickey Mouse. Of course, it was inevitable that someone would ask "are we there yet," but I didn't expect to hear it from a chaperone at 4:30 in the morning!
Naturally it was my group that ran into problems at the airport. Our flight was delayed from Charlotte for almost 90 minutes, which ate into our entertainment time for the afternoon. I guess Group 1 didn't wait too long for us at the airport. I'm sure they were pretty anxious to get to the rides! We finally arrived at City Walk around 6 p.m. City Walk is a huge entertainment complex that covers several city blocks. It includes all types of shops and restaurants, including the NASCAR Cafnd the colossal Hard Rock restaurant, which was fashioned after the Roman Coliseum. City Walk is also the entrance to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
My group chose to visit Universal Studios, and we were not disappointed. All of us enjoyed the "Twister" movie reenactment, which put you in the center of the twister complete with exploding gas pumps, rain and even the flying cow! During the "Jaws" ride, Katie Martin was especially surprised when a huge shark appeared boatside to give her a scare.
We had a few minor glitches, but we handled them well. One pommer (who shall remain nameless) forgot her bloomers, but we came up with an innovative solution. Carrie Potter was ill for the first two days. We all tried to look after her and make her comfortable she was a trooper! One room of girls locked themselves out of their bathroom, but I jimmied the lock with my trusted pocketknife. I guess that's what chaperones are for.
Our second day in Florida dawned bright and clear but breezy. It ended up being a perfect day to be outside, especially if you were to be in a parade. We started out early with breakfast at Planet Hollywood complete with our friends Mickey, Pluto and Goofy. It was fun to see the Disney characters up close, and it seemed to bring out the kid in all of us. Band director Will Cooper was able to miraculously answer an obscure trivia question, and win a coveted Planet Hollywood prize.
It was cool as we boarded the ferry that was to take us to the Magic Kingdom, but we were so pumped with excitement none of us felt the chill. The Magic Kingdom did indeed have a magical and endlessly happy quality to it. Everyone was pleasant, and there were quite a few international guests enjoying the park with us. We would sometimes encounter other Baldwin students, and they always had huge grins on their faces everyone was having a blast! Space Mountain was a popular ride, and so was Splash Mountain, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and the Haunted Mansion.
Backstage in the large staging area, the band readied for their part of the Main Street Electrical Parade as chaperones nervously milled about. This is the moment we had all been working towards for so long. Cooper and several students were filmed for an upcoming video narrating our adventures. Chaperones debated where the best viewing angles of the parade would be. This was indeed an honor for our band to be part of Disney's Magical Musical Days only 80 bands and choirs were accepted for the week's festivities, and only two bands each day led the parades through the Magic Kingdom.
For the parade Debbie Oakleaf, Gayle Dempsey and myself were positioned by Cinderella's Castle, hoping to get a photo of the band with the Castle in the background. The total parade route was about a mile, and the Castle was the halfway point. I'm certain I heard the gasps of the students from my vantage point as the big, heavy metal gates opened, and the kids saw this never-ending sea of people. The official attendance according to Disney officials placed the crowd at more than 100,000 people 50,000 more than a normal Sunday. On the plane back to Kansas City, I tried to get a quote from the kids about how they felt at that particular moment, and it was hard for them to put it into words. Imagine! Teen-agers speechless! It must have been an awesome moment! I know a few chaperones who wiped away tears watching with pride as our Bulldogs marched past the Castle.
After our kids marched and changed their clothes, we dashed back into the park to catch a glimpse of the last-ever Main Street Electrical Parade. The Parade was conceived in 1972, and had been a mainstay of both Disney World and Disney Land. "It was quite innovative and everyone was thrilled when it worked," said Barrette Ricci, the parade's founder who was recently quoted in the Orlando Sentinel. And boy was it spectacular! All of the floats and characters were brightly lit with hundreds and hundreds of lights. We were so fortunate to lead the last ever Main Street Electrical Parade. None of us will ever forget it. The colorful and awesome fireworks over the Castle later in the evening capped off a perfect day for us at Disney World.
But our days in Florida were not over yet. The next day we boarded our coach bus for the short hop to Cocoa Beach and Ron Jons. Ron Jons is billed as one of the world's largest surf shops, and it certainly lived up to its reputation. I had never seen so many boards, suits and water accessories in my life. Martha Harris couldn't resist the light-up belly button jewelry, and several of the girls bought swimsuits and clothes. Quite a few kids were sporting Ron Jon t-shirts and sarongs.
Cassie Pahcoddy, Jenna Brumm and several other young ladies were the ace seashell hunters. They found large shells washed up on the beach under a drainage pipe. Within the view of NASA's shuttle launchpad, a group of Baldwin boys had a rousing game of football in the surf and napped in the warm sands afterwards.
We brushed the sand from our feet and bodies, and journeyed on to Epcot Center. We had mixed emotions about leaving the beach so soon, but we soon warmed up to the activities at Epcot, especially the performance of the Irish band Barrage and the Fast Trak ride. Betty Bullock really enjoyed the Tapestry of Nations parade, it was colorful and exciting. Another fun activity was the audience participation "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" 3-D spectacular. If you're squeamish about mice or snakes, hang on to your pals.
Our last day in Florida was spent at the Disney-MGM studios. BHS principal Joe Gresnick joined our group, and we enjoyed tripping through old movies from the past in the Great Movie Ride. Seeing Gene Kelley swinging on a lamppost and John Wayne astride his tail-twitching snorting horse was fun, but it was Munchinkinland that brought a huge cheer from our group that included Patti Burch, Katy Taul and Katie Novak. The animation was fun to see, and really made the ride special.
We decided to see the Indiana Jones show as well. We heard it was popular and exciting. And it was very fun for me since I "volunteered" when the casting call went out. We were asked to sign a long waiver, and as I read it, I wondered what I had gotten myself into cuts, lacerations, broken bones, concussions and burns were all listed as possible. I was dressed in robes, and told to react to whatever Indiana Jones did. When he rescued the heroine from a rooftop or jumped out of a ring of fire, we hollered and cheered. It was awesome, and the large crowds didn't bother me at all they wanted someone enthusiastic and I certainly was! We ran into several groups of students that were very surprised to see a fellow Baldwinite on stage at MGM. Everyone enjoyed the show, perhaps I do have a career option in show business.
Our time at MGM was short, since we were headed home in the early afternoon. Our groups parted ways at the airport, Group I was headed back home through Charlotte, and Group 2 flew to Pittsburgh. Our counter attendants in Pittsburgh were interesting; besides our group there were only 15 other passengers. So the attendants let our kids sit anywhere on the plane they desired. After everyone had boarded, the chaperones were hanging back, counting tickets. The counter attendant picked up her mike and said "And now the Baldwin High School chaperones may now board the plane." We must have looked tired and surprised, perhaps not sure we wanted to board the plane with 40 hyper and wound-up students. The entire waiting area chuckled, and the attendants fondly recalled stories of their high school band trip days. They congratulated us on
such a wonderful group of kids and a successful trip.
It pretty much summed up our days in Florida. Just like the enthusiastic counter attendants in Pittsburgh, I know that the students, faculty and chaperones will be reminiscing about the "great Band/Pom trip of 2001" many, many years from now.