Glen Cunningham's granddaughter Lakin Cunningham is a member of the Louisburg High School Wildcat Marching Band that is marching in the 2018 Tournament of Rose's Parade on New Year's Day.
Glen Cunningham is one proud grandpa. When the 2018 Tournament of Roses Parade heads down the streets of Pasadena, Cunningham will be looking at the Louisburg High School Wildcat Marching Band with particular interest. Cunningham's granddaughter, Lakin Cunningham, who plays the trumpet and French horn in the band that is the first band from Kansas in the parade in over 20 years.
Cunningham said he would definitely be watching this year and hoped to see Lakin as the band marches in the parade.
"I don't want to miss it," Cunningham said.
The parade will be carried at 10 a.m. on ABC, NBC, HGTV and Hallmark networks. The Louisburg band is unit No. 20 in the parade and should be shown within the first 30 minutes of the parade. The band will be dressed in Purple and White and their mascot is a wildcat.
Lakin said she had done a lot of preparation for the parade, both in raising money and in getting fit for the 5.5 mile long parade.
"I had to put in a lot of work. I practiced with the band," Lakin said. "We did a car wash, garage sale and sent out letters to raise money."
Lakin, who is a freshman trumpet player in the band, is anxious to get to Pasadena and take part in the parade after working months to get ready.
"I feel very excited. I've been looking forward to this for a year and a half," Lakin said. "It's going to be amazing. I'm going to learn a lot. It's a great opportunity to get to go and I'm going to talk about it for the rest of my life because it's one of the best things I could do."
Lakin said she wanted to thank the people of Louisburg because without community support, the trip would have been impossible.
Todd Cunningham, Lakin's dad, said the entire family was excited about the parade and wanted to let the people of Pratt know because many would remember their family and Lakin who attended school in Pratt.
John Cisetti is the Louisburg High School Marching Band director and has been for the last 39 years. When the six buses carrying the band went through Pratt Tuesday, Dec. 26, they were carrying 187 high school and eighth grade band students and 70 chaperons, Cisetti said.
The trip will take two days with a one night stop over in Albuquerque. They will be in California for five days and march in a Disneyland parade, perform their field show at Pasadena City College plus do some sight seeing in Hollywood and go to the beach.
Getting to march in the Rose Parade is no easy task. The Rose Parade gets hundreds of applications every year.
"We've had our eye on the Rose Parade for a long time. We've been applying for 10 years," Cisetti said.
There was much to do to get accepted. There were lots of forms to fill out, the band had to produce a five minute video that featured a short introduction telling why a bands program stands out, it had to contain highlights from a half time show, they had to show the band marching around a corner because the television cameras are positioned at the start of the parade and each band has to make a turn around a corner and they have to look good doing it, Cisetti said.
The Louisburg city council was very cooperative and allowed main street to be shut down while the band practiced marching and that very critical turn around a corner.
Funding for the trip was a major issue. The trip lasts nine days and costs $500,000. For the town of Louisburg, with a population of 4,300, this would be quite a task.
"Right away, we knew it was going to be a real challenge," Cisetti said.
They went on a fundraising campaign for a year that included all the band students writing letters to everyone they knew, requesting financial support. The letter writing campaign brought in $187,000 and donations came from all 50 states and two foreign countries. They held a garage sale to end all garage sales and raised $44,000.
Cisetti said they anticipated the cost would be covered by 50 percent donations and 50 percent out of pocket but the generosity of the community and others resulted in 70 percent of the cost was covered by donations.
They knew there would be some families with financial needs but thanks to a scholarship fund, no student was left behind.
There are 550 students in Louisburg High School in grades 9-12 with 146 in the band. The Rose Parade suggest they add the eighth grade to make the band bigger and that added another 41 students to make a good impression on the estimated 1 million that will see the parade in person and the millions that will watch on TV.
While all the fundraising was going on, the band was preparing for the physical challenge of marching for 5.5 miles. They walked the track, did several parades including the Maple Leaf Parade in Baldwin City and took first place in the St. Patrick's Parade in Kansas City.
Students even kept track of their steps. Garmin Corporation donated fitness watches to the band as they tried to get in 10,000 steps every day. The band eventually walked a total of 150 million steps in preparation for the event.
Marching in the Rose Parade will probably be in the top 10 events in these student's lives. It was worth all the work and sweat to be in the parade and represent Louisburg and Kansas and the midwest.
"This will change student's lives. Travel does that to people," Cisetti said. "It will create a life time of memories."
The Louisburg High School Band takes a trip every four years. They have participated in an Independence Day parade in Washington D. C., a Veteran's Day Parade in New York City and in the Cotton Bowl. Besides band director Cisetti, his staff includes assistant director Brett Butler, dance instructor Kassy Miller and band parents chair person Steve Town.