There weren’t a lot of unum evolving from our pluribus lately, with the January 6 committee hearings that challenged us to believe our eyes and ears; Supreme Court rulings that, no matter where you sit, only deepen the conflicting blues and reds of our national map; and distant military investment that has exacerbated national economic challenges.
And here it is, the Fourth of July weekend, when we are supposed to celebrate the courage of patriots who risked their reputations, their fortunes and their lives to publicly reject autocracy. Instead, things seem more divided than ever.
It seems like a good time to take a step back and encourage something good, wholesome, and American.
My Nomination: The West High School Viking Regiment Marching Band, who have been invited to participate in the 2023 National Independence Day Parade in Washington, DC, on what will be the nation’s 247th anniversary.
The Viking Regiment Boosters have a big goal: to raise $85,000 over the next few months, which should be enough to send 54 student-musicians and possibly six chaperones to the nation’s capital. ($100,000 would be even better as it would fund the extracurricular budget for the whole year.)
The fundraising effort is underway this weekend in the parking lot of FoodMaxx, 4470 Ming Ave., one mile east of West High’s campus. Parents in the group sell fireworks (and fireworks raffle tickets), kids wash cars, and a food truck salesman pays back a share of the weekend’s profits. One or more of these things will be available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day until Monday at the northwest corner of Ming and Stine Road.
If they could bottle up and sell the enthusiasm of third-grade group teacher Erin Wander, 29, they’d be assigning seats for the plane right now, but unfortunately they’ll have to work a little harder for it.
Or rather, fortunately. Along with the satisfaction of earning their own way to Washington, DC, the kids are having fun, as evidenced by the smiles behind the signs they wave to drivers from all corners of the intersection.
“I’m excited, which makes the kids excited,” said Wander, a native of Spotsylvania, Va., who took West’s job three years ago and says the New Stine Road campus is right where she is. was meant to be. “They may not know why they are excited. They just know it’s hard not to be when I’m excited.
The excitement extends to the boosters themselves. Mike and Christine Richards will need a lot, as they are still getting the first two members of their Viking Regiment through the program; four other Richards children will theoretically walk 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 at his fingertips. Sure, the Viking Regiment stand has fireworks packages to suit all tastes and budgets starting under $100, but why not entertain the whole neighborhood with this assortment of 4 consumer explosives. feet tall and 40 pounds for just $799.95? It’s for a great cause! Cue the sad-eyed saxophone section, dying to parade past the White House in a year.
Wander, who proudly reports that she was the first female drum major in the history of her alma mater, Christopher Newport University, in Newport News, Va., admits the trip to DC will be a nice homecoming. Spotsylvania – the site of several key Civil War battles – lies just 60 miles south of the US capital. She has no family in Bakersfield, which makes her band family all the more important.
She hopes the fundraising experience, from inception to sales pitch to actual marching band performance, will make them proud and leave a lasting impression.
“It’s an honor to be invited and an honor to be able to play,” she said. “It’s something they will all remember.”
Out of town or otherwise busy this 4th of July weekend? Wander says The Viking Regiment – from the full 50-piece band to a beautiful, tasteful quartet – is available for your private party or community event. Nothing says happy birthday like a little John Philip Sousa.
The West High School Viking Regiment Booster Club, a non-profit organization, will accept donations by check or via PayPal at paypal.me/whsvikingregiment.
Robert Price is an Emmy Award-winning journalist-commentator for KGET-TV. His column appears here on Sundays; The opinions expressed are his own. Contact him at RPrice661@gmail.com or via Twitter: @stubblebuzz.