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Parade may call Green Valley

WASHINGTON — With time running short, two Nevada high school bands still are awaiting marching orders whether they will perform in the presidential inaugural parade next month.

In September, long before the election was decided, music directors at Elko High School and Green Valley High School in Henderson set sights on the inauguration. They assembled DVDs, audiotapes and photos of their bands, along with letters of recommendation, and submitted them to the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee.

Since then, anticipation has morphed into slight anxiety as educators, students and parents wait for word on whether one or both schools — or neither — should plan to be high stepping down Pennsylvania Avenue for the historic event on Jan. 20.

“Now we just sit and wait,” said Diane Koutsulis, director of bands at Green Valley High. “I am not a big Web browser but yesterday I spent two hours looking for information that might help one way or another.”

The 120 students in the Green Valley High School Marching Band “are really anxious to find out one way or another,” Koutsulis said. “What a great thing to blend music with history.”

Both bands are well traveled, and their forbearers marched in previous inaugural parades. Green Valley High was part of President Clinton’s first term parade in 1993. Elko High marched in Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural in 1981.

Part of the concern this year stems from daunting travel logistics. Booking flights for a hundred travelers and finding big blocks of hotel rooms can be complex — and President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural is shaping up as a major league challenge.

The swearing-in on the U.S. Capitol steps, and surrounding festivities, are expected to draw greater than 1 million Obama fans and observers. Hopeful attendees are looking for hotels as far away as Williamsburg, Va., — almost three hours away.

In Elko, school officials this week decided the 93-member Elko High School Band of Indians was going to travel to Washington regardless of whether they march.

The big driver for that decision was a looming deadline for the school to make a second deposit at a hotel — the Embassy Suites near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

“Already for the hotel alone we have an investment of $23,000 for 50 rooms,” said Walt Lovell, director of bands. “If we waited until we got the actual invitation it could be as late as Dec. 20.”

All told, Lovell said the trip could cost about $1,600 per student and a total of close to $200,000 counting chaperones. Fundraising is ongoing.

“We can use any help we can get,” Lovell said. “It would be great if some wealthy Democrat could help us get there.”

The Elko contingent plans to spend Jan. 18-22 in Washington. If the students do not march, “we will find places to perform and things to do,” Lovell said. “The students will get a first hand experience to be in Washington for a presidential inaugural.”

If selected, Koutsulis said the Green Valley High band would likely fly into Philadelphia. She did not know where it would be housed. She was counting on some reservations becoming available from groups that will decide against making the trip. The band would have to raise $120,000 in a short period to complete funding.

“I really believe we are going to have rooms,” she said. “We have a travel company working on it. I am going to remain positive.”

The Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, which did the first screening, received 780 applications from groups wanting to march in the parade, more than double the number that applied in 2005 for President Bush’s second inaugural, the Washington Post reported last month.

Fewer than 100 bands and other groups were picked for the Bush parade.

This year, parade organizers have been tight-lipped about how many bands will be picked, who is making the choices and by what measures.

The Armed Forces Inaugural Committee initiated the application process early in the fall, and turned over what it compiled to the Presidential Inaugural Committee that was formed after the election.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee, which is headed by a group of prominent Chicago leaders, is making the final choices.

“We received an overwhelming number of applications from across the country,” said Shannon Gilson, an inaugural spokeswoman, who would only add that the musical groups would be notified soon.

One inaugural official said organizers are looking for “diversity” in the parade, and are hoping to get as many states represented as possible.

In the meantime, Nevada band leaders are left guessing, even as to whether they might be in competition with each other for a coveted slot.

“Nobody really knows what things they are taking into consideration,” Koutsulis said. “Maybe Nevada finally voting blue might be a big deal but I don’t know.”

Obama visited Elko three times during his campaign, a gesture that he was competing even in rural and Republican communities.

 

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