Downingtown marching band dazzles with Rose Parade performance

DOWNINGTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "It's hours and hours of nonstop hard work for these kids," said Woody Kleintz, Director of the Color Guard at Downingtown West High School.

Otherwise rivals on the football field, Downingtown West and East High Schools set aside their differences to make room for drums, saxophones, and giant flags. The collaboration is known as Downingtown Blue and Gold Marching Band, which has been performing at local parades, events, and fundraisers for two decades.

But on January 1, 2022, they traveled far to demonstrate their talents on a national stage.

"The Rose Parade is the crown jewel of every parade that you want to be in," said Kleintz. "So, we've been raising money and preparing for this for about two and a half years now."

It was an exciting idea for Justine Sarafinas, a 12th-grade student at Downingtown West who originally joined the color guard with no dance experience. Now, she is the captain.

"I've been waiting for a while," said Sarafinas, who started five years ago as an eighth-grader. "It was a lot of fun and almost the entire band, both East and West, came."

Approximately 300 students comprise the star-studded cast and spent the last two years fundraising to make the trip possible. With the help of donors and sponsors, the schools were able to meet the roughly $900,000 price tag that accompanied the trip to Pasadena, California.

And they did not disappoint.

"Marching for that long, however tired we were, you know, I would look and see all these people for the entire stretch of the six miles and it was really kind of surreal," said Alexis Hart, who played trumpet in the band.

The significance of the trip was not lost on students, either.

"Usually, Downingtown tries to go every 10 or so years," said Abbi Bradley, who was amazed to be part of the group. "We're going to have our picture up on the hallway next to the band room for years and years to come."

The initial application was made in 2019 and Downingtown students were tapped to perform in the 2021 parade. However, the parade was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time since World War II. The invitation was honored for the parade's return in 2022. Downingtown was one of a dozen high schools to perform out of thousands who applied.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," said alto saxophone-player Adam Carango. "Like, we'll never be able to go again and just to have that like under your belt, it's incredible."

Graduating band members encouraged younger students to consider joining the marching band, which continues to practice and perform at football games and around the community nearly year-round.

"Definitely, my second home is being with the marching band and the color guard," said Justine Sarafinas. "You'll always find someone to be friends with."

To learn more, visit their website.

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