ALTAMONT — Out of all the high school marching bands in Illinois, the one selected to represent the state in the 2017 National Memorial Day Parade hails from Effingham County.
Altamont High School band members still can't believe they'll be headed to Washington D.C. at this time next year.
"We weren't expecting this at all," said clarinet player Chelsea Giovanetti.
"I am shocked our band got chosen," said Tera Hahn, another clarinet player.
Band director Sara Berg nominated her band earlier this spring.
"We went through the IASA (Illinois Association of School Administrators), then the ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education), and then the governor's office," Berg said.
Berg, who grew up in even tinier Ramsey, said she's proud that a small school was chosen to represent the entire state at the May 29, 2017 parade.
"I love it," she said. "When I was growing up, we were big rivals with Altamont at the parades."
The parade runs down Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th Street in the nation's capitol, before several hundred thousand spectators. Participants include invited bands from every state, musicians from all branches of the military, veterans groups, military and specialty units, floats and VIPs. It will be televised on Discovery's Military Channel and worldwide to American troops on the Pentagon Channel.
Rising seniors in the band recognize the importance of being selected for the D.C. parade.
"It's a great opportunity for us," said trumpet player Elizabeth McCammon. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. We're not going to ever do anything like this again."
With their participation in next year's national parade, next year's AHS band seniors will have had the unusual privilege of two major trips during their high school years. Normally, the band takes a major trip once every four years. But Giovanetti said the Memorial Day parade should not be compared to previous trips to Florida.
"It's an honor to march in D.C.," she said. "In Florida, it was more of a fun thing."
Percussionist Sam Childerson had similar thoughts.
"It's a huge honor to represent our state at a national thing like this," Childerson said.
AHS Principal Jerry Tkachuk said the band deserved praise.
"I'm always proud of our kids, but it's always nice when other people recognize it," Tkachuk said.
Bill Grimes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-347-7151, x132.