Not a lot unum Evolving from us Pluribus As of late, the January 6 commission hearings are daring our eyes and ears to believe, wherever you sit, Supreme Court rulings that only deepen the blues and reds of conflict on our national map and far-reaching military investment exacerbate domestic economic challenges.
And here on the 4th of July weekend, we need to celebrate the courage of patriots who risked their reputations, fortunes and lives to publicly reject tyranny. Instead, things are divided as usual.
It seems like a good time to step back for a moment and cheer for something good, healthy and American.
My nomination: The West High School Viking Regiment Marching Band, which has been invited to participate in the 2023 National Independence Day Parade in Washington, DC on the nation’s 247th birthday.
The Viking Regiment Boosters have a big goal: to raise $85,000 over the next several months, enough to send 54 student-musicians and maybe six chaperones to the nation’s capital. ($100,000 would be even better because it would fund an entire year’s extracurricular budget.)
A fundraising effort is underway this weekend in the parking lot of FoodMax, 4470 Ming Ave., about a mile east of the West High campus. Band parents are selling fireworks (and raffle tickets for fireworks), kids are washing cars, and a food truck vendor is kicking back a share of the weekend’s profits. One or more of them are available at the northwest corner of Ming and Stein Roads from 8 am to 10 pm daily through Monday.
If only he could bottle and sell the enthusiasm of third-year band teacher Erin Vander, 29, she’d be making seat assignments for the plane right now, but unfortunately she’s going to have to work a little harder for it.
Or, rather, fortunately. Along with the satisfaction of making their way to Washington, DC, the kids are having fun, evident by the smiles behind the placards they wave at drivers from the four corners of the intersection.
“I’m excited, it’s exciting for the kids,” said Vander, of Spotsylvania, Va., who took the West job three years ago and says the New Stein Road campus is the place to be. “Maybe they don’t know why they’re excited. They know it’s hard not to be when I’m excited.
The excitement extends to the boosters. Mike and Christine Richards will need a lot, as they are still putting their first two Viking Regiment members through the program; Four more Richards children will theoretically follow in the footsteps of their older siblings.
“They love it; It’s a family,” Christine said. “It’s fun for them, fun for us.”
Mike has his sales pitch down pat. Sure, Viking Regiment Booth has fireworks packages for every taste and every budget starting under $100, but why not entertain the whole neighborhood with this four-foot-tall, 40-pound crowd-pleasing assortment for just $799.95? It’s for a great cause! Cue the sad-eyed saxophone section, dying for a chance to cross the White House a year from now.
Wander, who proudly reports that she is the first female drum major in the history of her alma mater, Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Va., admits that the DC trip will be a great homecoming. Spotsylvania – the site of several major Civil War battles – is just 60 miles south of the US capital. She has no family in Bakersfield, which makes her band family all the more important.
He hopes the fundraising experience, from the start to the sales pitch to the actual marching-band performance, will make him proud and leave a lasting impression.
“It’s an honor to ask for and an honor to be able to perform,” he said. “It’s something they all remember.”
Out of town this 4th of July weekend or not? Wander says the Viking Regiment — from a full 50-something-piece band to a fine, tasteful quartet — is available for your private party or community event. Nothing says happy birthday like little John Philip Sousa.
The West High School Viking Regiment Booster Club, a nonprofit organization, accepts donations by check or PayPal at paypal.me/whsvikingregiment.
Robert Price is an Emmy Award-winning reporter-commentator for KGET-TV. His column appears here on Sundays. Contact him at [email protected] or via Twitter: @stubblebuzz. The opinions expressed are their own.