ALLEN — While most high school students will be enjoying a holiday break from school, 52 students from Allen Consolidated Schools and 11 adult sponsors will load up on a bus and three vans and head to Atlanta, Ga.
The Allen High School band is preparing to embark on a trip to march in the Chik-fil-A Bowl Parade and other musical competitions and performances connected to the Sunday, Dec. 30, college football bowl game. They are scheduled to leave Thursday, Dec. 27.
Although the trip may sound like a once-in-a lifetime opportunity, it will actually mark the fourth trip the band members have taken under the direction of Richard Lacy.
Lacy, who has been the band director, choral director, director of one act plays and the head of the school’s drama department for the past 25 years, has taken the band on a trip about every four years.
The first trip was taken 14 years ago when Lacy and the Eagle band headed for the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.
“That first trip was tough,” Lacy said. “We had only seven months to raise the money to take the trip. Now we have four or five years to raise the money.”
This year’s trip to Atlanta will cost around $42,000, according to Lacy, and the money has come from the fundraising efforts of the band members themselves along with the support of the community.
“It is one of the many educational values of a trip like this,” Lacy said. “All the hard work that goes into the fund raising pays off with a trip most of these kids will never forget.”
The band director is eager to point out this is not a vacation for the kids — although many will never have another one like it — but rather a chance to learn and experience places and things out of their element or comfort zone.
On this particular endeavor, Lacy and the band will march in the Chik-fil-A Bowl Parade, be involved in the pregame and halftime performances, go to the sixth largest aquarium in the U.S., visit Stone Mountain, go to a virtual lesson about the Battle of Atlanta, eat at the Hard Rock Café and go to the Coke Museum, among many other activities both planned and unplanned.
“I plan as many educational experiences as possible into the time we are there,” he said. “And we are also there to compete. There is a competition for high school bands in the parade. We will be judged and awards will be given. Most of the other bands come from much bigger schools and towns.”
In addition to the competitions, Lacy pointed out a neat element for his students and, in particular, Samantha Sullivan.
The founder of the Chik-fil-A restaurants is an accomplished trumpet player. He has invited one member from each of the high school bands participating in the parade to play the second and third parts as he plays the lead to the “Star Spangled Banner” at ceremonies before the football game.
Sullivan, as the first-chair trumpet player for Allen, will get the honor of playing along.
The Allen school has 52 of its 66 students participating in band. The level of participation is no surprise to Lacy — for band or any of the other activities offered at the school.
“I think we have better participation in our activities here at Allen because our curriculum, our students and our community are activities driven,” Lacy said. “It’s not just band, it is football, volleyball, basketball, FFA. All the activities we offer have good participation.”