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Presenting – The Great Bridge High School Marching Ban(ne)d


Tiffany Alfonso

In 2009, the year of the (hopefully prosperous) ox, Disney Parks rolls out a year-long celebration of – well – celebrations of our times of our lives. They inquire us, including Floridians like me who live an-hour-odd radius from the Walt Disney World Resort, this rhetorical question, “What will you celebrate?” For me, I have a lot to celebrate even in this shoestring economy – like the recently obtained Seasonal Annual Pass, free admission to Epcot come my birthday, and the rediscovery of my fondest childhood memories, character meets and greets included.

In the case of the Great Bridge High School Marching Wildcats Band, who hails from Chesapeake, Virginia, they would be missing out on this celebratory opportunity. Another marching band from elsewhere would supplant them as featured youth band slated to march in ABC’s televised Christmas special, The Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade. Since its inception 25 years ago in 1983 (as the Walt Disney World Very Merry Christmas Parade), a guest marching band struts down Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, but GBHS will be an exception this year – and it’s not just shoestring budgets and SOL (Standards of Learning, the equal to our Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT) preparation. A policy pertaining to field trips delineated by Chesapeake Public Schools since 2006 squandered that vision.

So why did a policy keep students from indulging in the delights being in a comedy venue with monsters or getting chased by a yellow-orange bloodhound? Amid reports of students getting injured at amusement parks and theme parks (Kings Dominion, Water Country USA, WaterWorks, and Busch Gardens Williamsburg, in particular, speaking of the band’s home state) and fears of unsupervised children, the school board tells schools to plan trips elsewhere, where carnival and coaster rides are absent. The mandates implicitly say the same with Epcot, which I really like as my favorite Walt Disney World park for educational hands-on experience, because they have rides, just as with other parks in the resort. Speaking of that theme park, the deaths as an end result of riding Mission: Space (one of a four-year-old Pennsylvanian boy that occurred in 2005 and another of German origin roughly a year later) might have further spurred the passing of the policy. Simply put, the schools would have to keep kids away from the parks with rides, local and abroad, and Walt Disney World is no exception.

Before the denial, the school board gave GBHS Marching Wildcats the green light to march in the Magic Kingdom under one condition – they had to return to the hotel after performance. After complaints, they scrapped the trip completely. Between being cooped up in a hotel and a school-sanctioned “staycation,” I find the latter worse. Both of them are profoundly unfair not only because kids are denied the chance to scale Splash Mountain (a tad too cold for this season, really) or to endure the forerunner of the HeadOn television ads, It’s A Small World.

I have been to Walt Disney World once in one of my field trips, in 2003, when I was an eighth grader in middle school, I went to Epcot with the class. I rode a lot of rides, including the original incarnation of Mission: Space (before the mild alternative), in which I felt giddy, but in one piece after riding it, and spotted two characters (Pluto and Dale, I presume) in the Garden Grill in The Land pavilion. The school field trip policy in Hillsborough County didn’t attach strings on field trips like that, in contrast to the one in Chesapeake, which attaches them in terms of rides. Even better, the mandates were less austere so we can enjoy Central Florida with no tears.

Alas, the band of GBHS are not only missing out on the rides in the Magic Kingdom like its mountain range or the Mattel-sponsored torture device applied directly not only on their foreheads, but on their bodies and memories as well. To me, a trip to a Disney destination, cruise line or theme park, wouldn’t be coherent without the apparitions and/or meetings with its famous costumed characters. Character meets-and-greets on land and sea, in terms of traveling with genuine Disney magic attached, are just like receiving the Eucharist during Mass, if you ask me. Each time I day-trip at Walt Disney World (the theme parks, to be exact), I have this need to meet up with or at least catch a glimpse of my childhood icons like Eeyore, who is my favorite Disney character because of both my childhood memories of watching the Pooh videos and TV shows and the AFV video of a horrifying experience in a Disney character breakfast. Thanks to the policy, the kids at GBHS are barred from seeing Captain Jack Sparrow, Kim Possible, Pluto (kid chaser), and Frozone from THE INCREDIBLES. Ditto even for another Pooh character, Tigger, who allegedly suckerpunched a teen at Disney’s Hollywood Studios almost two years ago, where at that time was named Disney’s MGM Studios. It’s as if the school board was saying to the kids “Sorry, but, for your safety, you can’t see Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and the entire Disney gang. Now stop carping over it and move on with your darn lives till graduation.”

In conclusion, the Chesapeake School Board prevented kids from reveling in what Walt Disney World has to offer, especially in the “Celebrate Today,” bustle we are in now. Not only students have to bear the cross for missing out on all the rides, but they have to endure not seeing their favorite Disney characters until individual family trips. I presume that a very huge faction of the pool of students in the band are Disney fans, thus they will be more than very crestfallen at that very biased decision.

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