Published on February 18, 2022 at 06:34
For the members of the Tamaqua Raider Band, the chance to parade past the famous Walt Disney World castle was nothing short of magical.
“It’s something that will always be a defining moment in my life. I got to lead such a big band and such a big band for me on Main Street,” said Laura Mace, one of the main drum majors of the group.
More than 160 musicians, cheerleaders and colorguard members flew to Florida this week for the show. The trip includes four days at the Disney Parks – and the chance to be part of the show.
“It’s at Disney. The stakes are higher, you’re playing for thousands of people on this parade route,” said Tamaqua Area High School band manager Mark Beltz.
Taking a family of four to Disney isn’t easy. Taking on a marching band is a monumental task. The Tamaqua group does this every five years.
On Tuesday, the group, along with 40 other parents and staff, flew from Philadelphia to Orlando. They were split on two flights, on two airlines, landing within 20 minutes of each other.
Even before the band took off on Tuesday, their instruments and uniforms were making the trip to Florida. Two parents made the 24+ hour trip to Orlando driving a moving truck with all the supplies.
It all costs over $200,000 to put together. The group goes there once every five years, so fundraising begins shortly after the previous trip ends.
Beltz said it wouldn’t be possible without the school district and the Tamaqua Band Booster Club, which raises funds, coordinates travel schedules and acts as the band’s road crew.
“This trip could have ended very quickly if not everyone was okay with letting this band play on a bigger stage,” Beltz said.
The group received school district approval for the trip two years ago, just before COVID hit. They pushed ahead with their plans despite uncertainty over whether the parade would take place.
“It was definitely a challenge to do this. I’ve done this trip many times and this was by far the hardest,” said Mark Beltz.
Another challenge is to practice in the middle of winter. Marching band season usually ends in November, but in January the Raider Marching Band was outside, marching in winter coats.
“It was really cold, but I think it was worth it. It made our band so much better,” Mace said.
On Thursday, they swapped coats for their traditional group uniforms and 30-degree cold weather for 80-degree heat.
They marched past Cinderella’s Castle, decorated for the park’s 50th anniversary.
They performed God Bless America and Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll”, showing their fun and serious side for the first time. Thousands of foreigners were able to see the band performing Tamaqua.
“You can perform in front of people who don’t know who we are, how big our band is, and how important we are in our own community. We can bring that here, and it’s good to show everyone,” Mace said.
On Thursday, members of the Tamaqua band parade down Main Street in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Members of the Tamaqua band parade down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World on Th