The Ducks of Odessa High School will be flocking their way across the pond for New Year’s Day 2025.
“Since the start of our program three years ago, we have been working tirelessly to become the best versions of ourselves,” said student Ruby Wall, one of the leaders of the marching band.
An announcement ceremony was held in Odessa’s Performing Arts Center. Bob Bone, the founder and chair of the parade, and Duncan Sandys, a parade ambassador, congratulated the band members.
The two were cracking up the crowd of students and parents as they juxtaposed Britain and America, saying that it was the audience that had funny accents and NOT them, in addition to the fact that America’s biggest parade is named after a retail store.
They also joked that they no longer give teacups to American school leaders who they invite to the parade.
“We worked out the history between your country and our country, and tea is not exactly something we should present,” Bone said.
They now give coffee mugs.
District and school administrators also received other presents like cufflinks and pins that celebrated King Charles III’s coronation.
The band was praised for starting out on Zoom call with seven members, to winning two state marching band championships and having dozens of students participate – and the school only opened in 2020.
The London’s New Year’s Day Parade began in 1987 and now has about 8,600 participants, Bone said, which is double the participation of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
Adding to the comic element of the formal invitation, Bone gave student Emma Sipes, another band leader, an umbrella and told her she must keep it on her person for the next 14 months, whether she’s in school, hanging with friends, in the bathroom and everything in between.
He said that in 2017, he and other parade organizers came up with an idea to try to use luck to combat the notoriously rainy and cloudy weather of London.
Each year since then, he’s gifted the American schools with umbrellas, and since they’ve started that tradition, the parade days have all had wonderful weather.
Bone also said the highlight of the parade is always the American marching bands from high school and college, since Britain doesn’t have the same culture of school marching bands.
Brian Endlein, the school’s band director, is uniquely making his third trip to London to perform in the parade. He was the band director at the district’s Middletown High School prior to working at Odessa, and their band played in the parade in 2014 and 2018.
“I think it’s a testament as to why our community has been a “Best Communities of Music Education” winner since 2016,” he said. “We’ve consistently won that award year after year, because of the support that the community gives to our program.”
He said it’s not just financial support, but the dedication and appreciation to music as an integral part of a child’s development.
“Whether it’s ensuring that students have access to the arts within our classrooms as part of our curriculum, whether it’s making sure that students have the instruments that they need to be able to perform, I think it really speaks a lot about our district,” he said.
The trip is expected to cost about $3,800 per person, but the district will have fundraising efforts over the next year to ensure as many students can go as possible.
As of now, Endlein expects about 50 student performers and 50 chaperons and district personnel.
Parade organizers have scouts that travel to America and select bands to invite. To Endlein’s knowledge, only a few schools from Delaware have been invited, including Middletown High, (twice) and Alexis I. du Pont High in the Red Clay Consolidated School District.
In 2019, Newark Charter High School performed in London, and on New Year’s Day of 2023, the band performed in Rome, in another parade organized by Bone’s company, Destination Events.
Sandys gave the students a verbal overview of the West End parade route and explained some of the historical significance of the city that the students will be able to explore.
“I have no doubt that they will make you as proud once they step off over the pond as they have made us here,” said Veronica Perrine, school principal. “From the bottom of my heart. I couldn’t be prouder…I have to end this with a GOOO DUCKS!”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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