North band bound for Orlando

Go ahead and look for the North High School marching band on your TV between the holidays.

Just don’t look for them at the Orange Bowl.

The Polars’ plans to appear at the Penn State-Florida State clash started off on the right foot last summer, but stumbled as they approached the goal line.

“It’s been an interesting road we’ve been down,” admits assistant band director Chris Paschen.

A year ago, Paschen and head band director Bruce Bodelson started to plan a spring break trip to Costa Rica to play concerts with a concert band - a trip the nearby Mahtomedi high school band had taken and enjoyed - but got a lukewarm reception to the tropical country. “We just couldn’t get the kids excited about it,” Paschen says.

After organizing an all-summer marching band for district students, Paschen could see there was more enthusiasm for marching. In August, he contacted a company to handle accommodations and arrangements for appearances at halftime during the Orange Bowl game and in the Orange Bowl parade.

Heading into November, the band was working to raise money for the trip through various fundraisers and donations, when Paschen found out the Orange Bowl parade had been canceled due to hurricane damage along the route.

Then, just before December, the company that held the Polars’ deposit and reservations notified Paschen that it wouldn’t be working with the Orange Bowl at all. Still committed to taking the band somewhere warm over the Christmas break, he started calling around for another destination.

“The first week of December, we became our own tour agents and got the arrangements done,” he said.

Although the band won’t be able to get a spot on a “bowl” field during halftime, it will be one of only a dozen bands from across the country to march in the Citrus Parade Dec. 30 in Orlando. The band will also appear in one of the nightly Macy’s holiday parades at Universal Studios and will march at Disney World on New Year’s Eve. “Basically, we’re doing the same things we were planning on before, minus a game appearance,” he explains.

Paschen only found out last week - much to his relief - that the original Orange Bowl company refunded the Polars’ deposit. “But I’m still letting people know that if they want to contribute a tax-deductible gift before the end of the year, we’re interested, because we’re still tight for funds,” he said. The trip is going to cost $1,200 for each of the 74 students going.

The students will travel by tour bus down to Orlando. A special part of their presentation, Paschen said, is a 60-foot-long American flag that was donated to them.

“It takes about 20 or 25 people to display it, and we’re trying to secure some assistance down there from some veterans to help us with it in the Citrus Bowl parade. We think it would be nice for them to get some recognition and to be seen on TV,” he explains.

Although marching preparations have been overshadowed somewhat by the logistics crises, Paschen says that part has been a bit of a headache too. After a series of warm, dry winters, he had been hoping the band would be able to practice outside well into December.

The recent snowfalls rained on that parade. “Last Monday night we ended up marching in one of the county’s snowplow garages. It worked out really well, but we don’t know if we’ll have that at our next rehearsal, because if it’s snowing, they have to be able to get the trucks in and out,” Paschen says.

The group is well-prepared for a heat wave in Orlando, though, after pounding the streets in local parades all last summer. “We were kind of primed on that - we had 90-degree weather in Stillwater,” he adds.

Go to the www.north Web site for more information on the band and its trip or to support the effort.

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