PHS band marching in Fiesta Bowl Parade

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

About two weeks before the Auburn Tigers take the field against the Oregon Ducks in the national championship game in Glendale, Ariz., a Pelham group will be welcoming another pair of teams into the same stadium.

The Pelham High School marching band will be one of only 12 other high school bands in the country to march in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl Parade through the streets of Phoenix on Dec. 31, 2010.

The parade will come one day before the New Year’s Day Fiesta Bowl matchup between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Connecticut Huskies in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

This year will mark the third time the PHS band has participated in the Fiesta Bowl Parade, which will feature 12 other high school bands and the University of Oklahoma and University of Connecticut marching bands.

“We do have to apply for it and submit videos and recordings to be accepted,” said PHS Band Director Jeff Burnside. “The Fiesta Bowl Parade is one of the more prestigious parades in the country.”

During the parade, the 203-member band will perform “I’ve got Rhythm,” which was featured during the band’s football halftime show this year.

Because the band will leave for the trip on Dec. 29, the group has already begun practicing for the 2-mile parade.

“This group really marches well,” Burnside said. “So preparing for the parade hasn’t been as bad as it is for some groups.

“They won’t actually be going to the game or performing a halftime show this year,” Burnside, an Auburn graduate, added. “But I sure would love to stay out there a few extra days for the national championship.”

In addition to marching in the parade, the band will visit the Grand Canyon, take Jeep tours of the Painted Cliffs in Sedona, Ariz., and go horseback riding, among other events.

On New Year’s Eve, the band will watch an outdoor fireworks display with members of the other 12 high school bands.

Many PHS students are amazed by the Fiesta Bowl Parade’s pageantry and size when they begin lining up for the event, Burnside said.

“It’s a really neat parade. It’s got all the floats and balloon arches, and it’s fun to see the kids get really excited when they are lining up to march,” Burnside said. “We have been fortunate to get invited to march in it every four or five years.

“It’s one of the biggest parades in the country,” he added. “From a director’s standpoint, it makes me really proud to see the kids march in it.”