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London calling: Mill Creek band to cross pond for New Year's Day performance

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

HOSCHTON -- On New Year's Day, the Pride of Mill Creek will play "Thriller" and "School's Out" as the band marches through Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square.

Mill Creek High's marching band departs Sunday for London, where it will participate in the city's 24th annual New Year's Day Parade.

"The next time we see each other, we'll all be in a different country," band director Erik Mason told the students before their final practice Friday. "This is such a great opportunity for us, and I am so proud of the work you've put in to get this invitation and in the past few weeks."

This will be the third parade in which the marching band has performed, Mason said. Mill Creek High opened in 2004.

"It's such a tremendous honor for us and our school," he said. "As a new school, it's a great opportunity to get our name out there and get some recognition."

Drum major Tyler Raeford, a senior, said the band started practicing for the parade about a month ago.

"As far as I can tell, everyone is as thrilled as I am to go," Raeford said.

In addition to performing in the parade, the band will be "packing our days full of sightseeing," he said.

Mason said 82 students and 38 adults are going on the weeklong trip. The excursion is costing about $360,000 -- or $3,000 per person. To help offset out-of-pocket cost for families, the band held several fundraisers.

Junior Kelly Shay, who plays trumpet, said the band sold everything from soda to pine straw to raise money.

"We wanted to give everyone the opportunity to go on the trip," Raeford said.

The parade will feature more than 10,000 performers representing 20 countries, and more than half a million people are expected to cram London's most famous streets to see it. The parade will be filled with marching bands, cheerleaders, clowns, acrobats, balloons and more, according to the parade's Web site.

"We're all extremely excited, but we're a little nervous," Raeford said.

"It's not exactly a Friday night football game," Shay interjected.

"But I know as the drum major, we've got a good band, and we should be confident," Raeford added.