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GAC band accepts invitation for London parade

Members of the Greater Atlanta Christian band pose for a picture with the Lord mayor of Westminster, Duncan Sandys, during a visit at the school on Monday where the band was formally invited to participate in London’s New Year’s Day Parade. (Special Photo)

Members of the Greater Atlanta Christian band pose for a picture with the Lord mayor of Westminster, Duncan Sandys, during a visit at the school on Monday where the band was formally invited to participate in London’s New Year’s Day Parade. (Special Photo)

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Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, left, talks with the Lord mayor of Westminster, Duncan Sandys, who visited Greater Atlanta Christian on Monday to formally invite the GAC Band to participate in London’s New Year’s Day Parade. (Special Photo)

NORCROSS — Almost twice the size of New York’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, London’s New Year’s Day Parade is one of the world’s largest.

On Jan. 1, the Greater Atlanta Christian School’s marching band will participate in the parade, along with 8,500 other performers.

“I was thrilled when we first got the call,” said director of bands, Wes York. “The honor is the student’s. They put in the years of quality work and it shows in the invitation.”

On hand to formally present the band with its invitation on Monday in front of a packed student body was the executive director of the parade Bob Bone, and the Lord mayor of Westminster, Duncan Sandys.

“London’s New Year’s Day Parade is the greatest event in the greatest city in the world,” Bone said. “Over the years the American marching bands have the been the crowd favorites and this year should be no different.”

Sandys, the great-grandson of Winston Churchill, said it was an honor for him to be there for the presentation, adding that the parade will take place throughout Westminster.

“When people say they’re coming to London, they’re coming to Westminster,” he said. “That’s where all of the historical landmarks are. From the seat of government, Parliament and the monarchy, it’s all right there.”

For many of the band members, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“We’re going to sightsee a lot and see all of the major landmarks,” said Caroline Stiles. “We’re very excited about the trip.”

Alex Won said that without the work that York put in with the band, none of this would be possible.

“Mr. York put in a lot of work,” Won said. “He always gets the best out of us.”

The students are also excited to participate in the concert series, which the symphonic band was invited to participate in as well.

“It’s going to be surreal to play in one of those venues,” Stiles said. “I never dreamed we would ever get that kind of opportunity.”

However, York said he believed all along his band could make it to London, as long as they put in the work.

“I marched in the parade in high school in 1997,” he said. “It’s an experience I’ll never forget and one these kids will never forget. I’ve always told them that every single performance has to be their best.”