A pleasant English accent read an official invitation to an excited crowd at Wellington High School on Tuesday, Feb. 11.
“In recognition of a reputation for outstanding performance abilities, the patrons and organizers of London’s New Year’s Day Parade and Festival take great pleasure in extending an invitation to the Wellington High School Mighty Wolverine Sound Marching Band to travel to London and participate in the 35th annual New Year’s Day Parade and Festival.”
Thus began an exciting journey for the school’s band students, as London dignitaries Bob Bone, co-founder and executive director of the London parade, and senior parade patron Steve Summers formally invited the 150-member band to perform at the iconic event.
This unique opportunity is offered to a small number of American high schools each year. Wellington was nominated by West Boca Raton High School, which previously performed in the parade, and their invitation was then approved.
“We’ve been asked to apply for this for a long time, and to finally think that it might happen is just incredible,” said Mary Oser, Wellington High School’s band director for almost 30 years.
Despite previous encouragements to apply for the prestigious opportunity, obstacles stood in the band’s way up until now.
“It was never really the right time,” said Sara Pawelkoski, an auxiliary instructor with the band. “This has been the first time that [Oser has] just been really able to organize it and get everybody on board.”
According to Bone, who founded the celebration three decades ago, 9,000 people participated in the 2020 parade, with 750,000 more crowding the London streets to watch.
“Why do they come out on New Year’s Day to see the parade? Why do you think?” Bone asked the wide-eyed band members. “It’s the weather! Everybody wants to come out because it’s a nice, warm, sunny day.”
Bone was joking, of course, given London’s cold winter climate. Actually, he continued, it’s the quality of entertainment that keeps the masses wanting more.
“You guys are clearly amazingly talented,” Summers said. “The enthusiasm is brilliant, you’re clearly incredibly dedicated — exactly what we need in our parade.”
Along with the visitors from across the pond, Wellington officials also shuffled into the band room for the occasion. Among them was Councilman John McGovern, who was one of the first graduating students at Wellington High School who had attended all four years. “To get invited to the London parade and to have this group of dignitaries fly across the ocean to come here and invite us is something that this band, this band director, and the school should be really proud of,” McGovern said. “We’re really proud for them.”
While the band has been officially invited to perform in the parade, it still has to be approved by the Palm Beach County School Board before any flights can be booked, and that approval has not yet been scheduled. Still, students and teachers are hopeful that they will have the opportunity to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I’m excited because we have this opportunity to show everyone what Wellington can do as a band,” ninth-grader Sydney Nembhard said. “And it’s a good opportunity for everyone.”