'Trip of a lifetime'
Mill Creek marching band invited to play in London parade

HOSCHTON - A representative of Queen Elizabeth II visited Mill Creek High School on Friday to invite the marching band to participate in London's New Year's Day parade in 2010.

Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Greater London Roger Bramble extended the invitation before he had a chance to hear the students play.

"If you say yes, it doesn't matter how bad you play; we can't take it back," Bramble jokingly said.

Bramble said he visited schools across the United States this week to invite bands selected by a committee of band directors to perform in the parade. After the ceremony in which he read a proclamation inviting the band to London for a week, he toured the Hoschton school and watched the band perform on the football field.

"It's exhilarating," said Bramble, who represents the queen when she is unable to attend an event. "At the end of the day, it's the spirit and enthusiasm of the kids that gets me."

London's New Year's Day parade is the largest in the world with about 10,000 participants, said Robert Bone, the parade's executive director. About 750,000 people pack the streets to watch the parade, which begins at noon at the Houses of Parliament near Big Ben and passes by Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus before ending at the Ritz Hotel. Another 220 million watch the event on television.

"I say that it's the greatest parade in the world in the greatest city in the world, and you can't argue with me because greatest is unquantifiable," Bone said. "It's absolute mayhem, but it's great fun. ... Every student who has marched in the parade has said it was the most mind-blowing experience of their life."

Drum major Tyler Raeford, a junior, said the band was excited to receive the invitation.

"It's just so exciting to represent Georgia and the nation in this great parade," he said. "It will be a lot of work because we want a great product for the parade, but it's something we can handle."

Principal Jim Markham encouraged the students to read about the landmarks they will see when they march in the parade.

"We've got some work to do," Markham said, "(but) we will be the best band in the parade."

Mill Creek band director Erik Mason said Bramble's visit was a tremendous honor for the school.

"I am proud to be able to let the world see the wonderful students and facilities of Mill Creek High," Mason said. "The most wonderful part of the visit for me is the pride and awe shown by our students."

Robert Andrews, Gwinnett County Public Schools' director of fine arts, told the students the momentous occasion will be "the trip of a lifetime."

"This invitation is a result of your hard work and dedication and your reputation as an award-winning band program," Andrews said.