Cheering spectators standing on rooftops in Pasadena's downtown business district dropped snowfalls of confetti as Washington's Cardozo High School marching band strutted by in the Tournament of Roses parade here today, dancing and playing Diana Ross's song "The Boss."
Drum section leader David Benjamin signaled to his followers to maintain the fast tempo as young and old alike on the sidelines clapped their hands, raised fists in salute and danced in place to the band's upbeat music. A man in a cowboy hat, jeans and no shirt yelled "Thank you" to the band as it marched past. Many others welcomed the band members to California and wished them "Happy New Year."
They have "fantasic spirit," said Judy Harris, a Pasadena resident who drove her family of four to the end of the parade to see the high-stepping band members up close.
"They were still smiling at the end, and I know they were tired," she said.
"But to look at them, to see the energy, you'd never know it. They've got more energy than any band i've seen so far."
An olive-skinned woman with long dark hair lifted her little son and pointed to Benjamin and other drummers as they crossed their drumsticks, struck a beat and tilted their gold plumed hats from side to side.
"They sure have a lot of class," said Bertha Brown, also from Pasadena. "They are really moving. When they first came around the corner they were so loud they sounded like horses. They really are amazing."
Cardozo's marching band performed for an estimated 1.5 million spectators along the five-and-a-half-mile route and were visible for a few fleeting moments on television for another estimated 125 million viewers nationwide. The 92nd Annual Tournament of Roses Parade included 61 floats, 250 equestrians and 24 marching bands, and according to some spectators, Cardozo's band was one of the show-stoppers.
For the Washington inner-city teen-agers who make up the Cardozo band, most of whom had never been away from the East Coast or flown in an airplane, this trip was the trip of a lifetime. The television commentators called them "dazzling and entertaining," and said, incorrectly, that the band had performed in Mexico City. But band director Robert Gill, who started this band from a drum and bugle corps with borrowed instruments 11 years ago, said that the band had received many invitations to festivals in such cities as Mexico City and Birmingham, England, but were never able to attend.
What TV viewers in Washington could not see today were the rigorous gridiron-like practice sessions that band members endured before and after school. To build stamina for the march, many band members ran up and down flights of stairs, and others ran laps around the track. Tenor saxophone player Troy Coleman credited his daily pushup exercises with helping him keep the pace of playing and swinging his saxophone from side to side.
Viewers did not see the golden California sunrise above the San Gabriel mountains, the sleepy-eyed band members huddled around Gill in silent prayer at the start of the march and sweat cascading down their backs and necks in the 80-degree heat during the march.Nor could they feel the tingling pain that band members felt as their feet began to swell inside their white shoes and boots midway through the five-and-half-mile parade route. t
Sunshine bearing down from above and heat rising from the pavement took their toll of the wool-uniformed band members, a half-dozen of whom dropped out during the final mile. Several cried after being forced to drop out. Gill said he had expected the parade to take one and a half hours. Instead, it lasted three.
"There were a lot of times when my shoulders started to hurt during the march and I just said, 'Hey, the crowd wants it,'" said drummer Benjamin.
"And that's when I just got down. When the crowd starts cheering, I forget all about the fatigue," he said.
Band member Tracy Hatton said the crowd's enthusiasm surprised him. "It seemed like everybody in the band wanted to put on a show -- nobody wanted to quit," he said. "We didn't come 3,000 miles for nothing. We came to represent Washington, D.C."