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McCracken marching band heading to Kentucky Derby

BY KATHLEEN FOXkfox@paducahsun.com

The McCracken County High School Marching Band will march to its own beat when the group participates in the Kentucky Derby Festival's oldest event, the Pegasus Parade, next week.

The Mustang Marching Band was selected to take part in the 59th annual Republic Bank Derby Festival Pegasus Parade, which will start at 5 p.m. Thursday on Broadway in Louisville. The parade, which began in 1956, is one of the largest in the country with an average of 250,000 spectators and is traditionally held the Thursday prior to the Derby.

The event represents a unique opportunity for local high school students, according to Band Director Steven Page.

"This is the first time for them to be in front of a huge crowd," he said. "Seeing a packed street with thousands of spectators will be a whole new thing for them."

The parade, which will last about two hours, travels west on Broadway for 17 blocks, a 1.7 mile route between Campbell and Ninth streets. The event features 11 marching bands selected nationwide along with equestrian units, inflatable characters and colorful floats for a total of 90 units. The band had to submit an application with a history of the school, performance video and pictures of the band uniform, Page said.

He said it will be the largest parade any of the participating students have marched in. He also emphasized the cultural benefits for students to see Churchill Downs and be a part of the Derby festivities first-hand. The group will also visit Kings Island and the Newport Aquarium, both near Cincinnati, on Friday.

"It's a great opportunity in the first year of the new (McCracken County) program for the students to keep growing," he said.

The ensemble is composed of 100 students who are members of the marching band or play an instrument in band class. The new ensemble has practiced after school to coordinate the new members and learn a new song, "Born to be Wild," to coordinate with the theme, "Call of the Wild."

Sydney Hayden, McCracken County High School senior band member, said the group is excited to travel and to present a unique take of the parade's theme. She said most groups do arrangements of "My Old Kentucky Home," but her group wanted to showcase a unique sound.

"It's great for everyone to be in this special parade but especially for the first-time students to play on such a grand stage," she said.

Page hopes the performance will serve as a springboard into next fall's marching season. The group is registered to participate in a competition at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in October.

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