May 9, 2009

Junior marchers strut their stuff

By The Spokesman-Review
The Spokesman-Review photo

The cheerleaders from Sacajawea Middle School donned clown gear to go with the theme of the 2009 Junior Lilac Parade, “Circus on Parade,” today in downtown Spokane.
(Full-size photo)

Middle and elementary school marching bands strutted their stuff before crowds of proud parents and other relatives Saturday at the 58th annual Junior Lilac Parade.

Popular band tunes swirled through the streets of downtown, while rows of girls twirled their batons in carefully executed drills. More than 50 bands, dance and drill teams competed in the parade, which was put on by the Rotaract Club of Spokane.

Dennis Zweigardt stood at the edge of the curb to snap a picture of his 13-year-old granddaughter, smartly attired in Horizon Middle School’s all-black band uniform. A beret was pulled over her blonde hair. She carried a white tuba.

“She’s really a clarinet player, but she switched to the tuba two weeks ago,” Zweigardt said. “They needed another player.”

Dio Morales and his wife, Patty, were waiting for their youngest son, Jerome, to appear with the Medical Lake Middle School marching band. For the past two months, the family has listened to 13-year-old Jerome practice the band’s number, “Fun, Fun, Fun,” on his flute. The couple’s oldest son also is a flute player.

“I wanted them to have band instruments we could carry to and from school easily,” Patty Morales said.

For many of the young musicians, performing in a marching band is a new experience. But their instructors are mostly veterans.

“I’ve been a band instructor for 28 years…I think that would be 27 Junior Lilac Parades,” said Matt Thistle of Mead’s Mountain View Middle School.

Getting seventh and eighth graders to march in sync while hitting the right notes is “a major multi-tasking challenge,” Thistle said. “It’s a completely different experience from a concert performance.”

His band starts preparing for the parade after spring break. This year, the students picked “Gonna Fly Now” to perform, the crowd-pleasing “Rocky” theme song.

Marching bands are a long-standing parade tradition, Thistle noted. Instant feedback from spectators enlivens the event, making the parade fun for the students, he said.

But marching is hard work, said drummer Nick Hill of Mountain View, who was tired by the time the parade funneled through Riverfront Park, crossed the Spokane River and wound down on Post Street.

“You’ve got to keep your lines straight, and you’ve got to keep in step,” said Hill, an eighth-grader. “You have to listen, too.”

Staying together musically is harder on the move, he said.

Contact Becky Kramer at (208) 765-7122 or

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