POPLARVILLE – Lillian Clark hopes she feels good and the sun shines when she and the Pearl River Community College band march along Pennsylvania Avenue in the Presidential Inaugural Parade.
PRCC’s Spirit of the River marching band will represent Mississippi in the Jan. 21 parade following the inauguration of President Barack Obama for a second term.
Clark and several other members of the Spirit of the River marched in the parade four years ago when they were in the Petal High School band.
“I was kind of upset about the weather,” Clark recalled about the 2009 parade. “It was very cold and it was snowing; plus I was sick on top of that. Once I realized I was in Washington for something bigger than my sickness, it was better.”
A sophomore clarinet player, Clark is looking forward to the second chance to participate in something most Americans never get to do even once.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve done a lot of parades, but that is the most honorable parade for a college or high school to march in.”
Dr. Kyle Hill, PRCC director of bands, had inquired some time ago about opportunities to perform in Washington, D.C.
“We got a phone call on Dec. 18 that said ‘On behalf of President Obama, we would like to invite the Pearl River band to participate.’,” he said. “We are the only group from Mississippi to participate.”
Based on his own research, Hill believes PRCC is the only Mississippi community college to participate in a presidential inaugural parade since President Jimmy Carter was inaugurated in 1977 and possibly ever.
“Pearl River Community College is extremely honored to have been invited to represent our state in the President’s Inaugural Parade,” said Dr. William Lewis, president. “This will be an experience that our band students will be able to carry with them throughout life. Many of our students have never had the opportunity to visit our nation’s capitol. That experience, in andof itself, is a fantastic opportunity for our students.”
All 50 states will be represented in the parade, which will follow President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden from the Capitol on the 1.5-mile route on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Spirit of the River will play God Bless America.
All members of the band, drum line, String of Pearls dance squad and color guard – about 150 students – have to have Secret Service clearance to participate. Hill and assistant band director Mike Bass spent several days during the Christmas break submitting photos and identification of each student.
The band will travel by charter bus, leaving Poplarville on Saturday, Jan. 19, and arriving in Washington the following day.
“We’ll do some sightseeing on Sunday,” Hill said. “The parade is Monday. We’ll arrive back in Poplarville Tuesday afternoon.”
The Presidential Inaugural Parade is coordinated by the Joint Task Force – National Capital Region. The U.S. military has participated in this tradition since April 30, 1789, when members of the U.S. Army, local militia units and Revolutionary War veterans escorted President George Washington to his first inauguration ceremony at Federal Hall in New York City, according to the U.S. Army website.