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Mill Creek band gets royal invite to London parade

Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Greater London Roger Bramble, center, invited the students, who make up the "2012 Pride of Mill Creek Marching Band," to participate in the 28th annual Londons New Years Day Parade.


Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Greater London Roger Bramble, center, invited the students, who make up the "2012 Pride of Mill Creek Marching Band," to participate in the 28th annual Londons New Years Day Parade on Jan. 1, 2014. Mill Creek Principal Jim Markham gives a tour of the school to Bramble and Director of London's New Year's Day Parade Geraldine Bone, right, along side drum majors Kayla Hopkins and Brett Raeford in Hoschton Thursday.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Greater London Roger Bramble, center, invited the students, who make up the "2012 Pride of Mill Creek Marching Band," to participate in the 28th annual Londons New Years Day Parade on Jan. 1, 2014. Mill Creek Principal Jim Markham gives a tour of the school to Bramble and Director of London's New Year's Day Parade Geraldine Bone, right, along side drum majors Kayla Hopkins and Brett Raeford in Hoschton Thursday.

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Mill Creek band gets invited to London parade

Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Greater London Roger Bramble, center, invited the students, who make up the "2012 Pride of Mill Creek Marching Band," to participate in the 28th annual Londons New Years Day Parade.

Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Greater London Roger Bramble, center, invited the students, who make up the "2012 Pride of Mill Creek Marching Band," to participate in the 28th annual Londons New Years Day Parade.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Greater London Roger Bramble, left, poses for a photograph with Mill Creek sophomore Robert Evans and Braselton Mayor Bill Orr at Mill Creek High School in Hoschton on Thursday. Students who make up the "2012 Pride of Mill Creek Marching Band," were invited to participate in the 28th annual Londons New Years Day Parade on Jan. 1, 2014.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan The "2012 Pride of Mill Creek Marching Band," performs for the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Greater London Roger Bramble, among other special guests in Hoschton on Thursday prior to being invited to participate in Londons New Years Day Parade on Jan. 1, 2014.

HOSCHTON -- A young man and woman sporting ornate, blue uniforms stand outside Mill Creek High School with band director, Erik Mason. They are relaxed, joking, until a black sedan with tinted windows slows to a crawl in the bus zone. The drum majors, Brett Raeford and Kayla Hopkins, venture a glance at the vehicle. "Is that them?" Raeford asks.

Mason squints at the car. "No, I think that's a band mom."

Confirming his suspicions, the car moves away, pulling into a parking spot. It's only seconds later that a black Suburban zooms up beside the curb. A group of men in suits and ties pile out of the sports utility vehicle. "OK," Mason says. "They're here."

It was an intense moment for the band director, the two drum majors and the entire 2012 Pride of Mill Creek Marching Band as overseas guests arrived at the school Thursday morning with a special message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: the group has been invited to participate in London's New Year's Day Parade on Jan. 1, 2014.

It's an exclusive honor said Robert Bone, executive director of the New Year's event. "It's very important that everybody we invite to perform in the parade gets a visit from one of the patrons of the event. In this case, we've got a representative of Her Majesty the Queen here."

Following a welcoming performance by the band for Thursday's special guests, Roger Bramble, deputy lord lieutenant of Greater London, delivered the official invitation to all 170 student musicians and performers.

Bramble and Bone thanked the group for agreeing to be a part of the New Year's event. "We want to express how appreciative we are of the fact that you are coming to London," Bone said. "It is an honor to have been selected for this."

Bone said that generally, about 16 high school bands from the United States are invited to the annual celebration. On the east coast, Bone said, Mill Creek is one of only three marching bands that were selected.

Mason said the band "couldn't be more excited to be a part of this."

He said such honors come with much hard work. "We've been very competitively successful, and we've grown to be one of the larger bands in the area," Mason said. "That's gained us some notoriety and some attention. We're hard to miss. We've got 170 kids that are very successful and hard to ignore."

In addition, Mason said, the marching band has "self motivation. They know what they want, and they know it's their responsibility to make it happen."

Mason has led the Mill Creek High band since 2006. It's the second invitation his students have received from London. The Mill Creek band marched in the London's New Year's Day Parade in 2010.

In addition to making an appearance in the London parade, the students also have been invited to star in two holiday events in Italy. For that reason, the Queen's representatives also hand-delivered written invitations from the mayors of Rome and Frascati, where the events are scheduled for Dec. 29 and 30.

During their visit to London, the marching band will be part of more than 10,000 performers from around the world entertaining a street audience of about 500,000 and a global television audience of tens of millions.

The historic 2.2-mile parade route features a backdrop of iconic buildings, streets and squares.

Mason said many of the students in his marching band have never visited anyplace outside the United States.

"It's going to be quite an experience," said Mason as he watched Thursday's visitors file back into the black Suburban, waving goodbye.