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The Boston Crusaders color guard poses at the Inaugural Parade. Lakewood Ranch sophomore Sammy Hyatt is second from right in the back row. Courtesy photo
East County Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 4 years ago

March of a Lifetime: Inaugural Day Parade

by: Josh Siegel Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD RANCH — President Obama saluted the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps’ drum major.

Security, lining both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, encouraged the marchers to keep moving forward, even though some felt their fingers go numb from the cold.

A television camera zoomed in on Matt Vaadi, Lakewood Ranch High School band captain. He smiled at the lens, though he couldn’t feel his face.

Vaadi, Greta Curry and Sammy Hyatt performed Jan. 21, in the 57th Inaugural Day Parade with the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps, marching 1.5 miles along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

The day began at 8 a.m. and started with a lot of waiting. Some would stand at attention, instruments held high, as the Crusaders waited their turn in the parade.

Finally, at 5:15 p.m., the Crusaders began their 45-minute march, getting as close to 50 feet from President Obama, who smiled at the group.

The Lakewood Ranch trio hopes the exposure leads to a 10,000-mile summer tour across 26 states with the Crusaders, the third-oldest drum and bugle corps in the nation comprised of brass players, percussionists and color guard members younger than 22 years old.

Greta Curry, a 17-year-old senior who plays the trumpet, toured with the Crusaders last summer, while Vaadi, an 18-year-old senior baritone player, and Sammy Hyatt, a 15-year-old sophomore in the color guard, auditioned last summer.

They’ve been participating in winter camps held in Lakewood Ranch, and they find out if they made the 2013 summer tour before February.

The Crusaders tradition includes a performance in the Inaugural Day Parade for Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.

John F. Kennedy was the corps’ first honorary member, after getting uniforms for the group decades ago.

More recently, the Crusaders earned a seventh-place finish in the annual Drum Corps International Competition last summer in Indianapolis.

In his first time in uniform with the Crusaders, albeit wearing long Johns, long sleeves, and a thin wool beanie under his red-and-white hat and fluffy feathery plume, Vaadi wished the showing extended beyond the day.

“It’s pretty cool in my first time in uniform for the Crusaders I’m playing for the president,” Vaadi said. “If the Crusaders picked me to perform on national TV in a national parade, there is a good chance I will be marching with them this summer. That would be really cool.”

The Crusaders didn’t need the “March of a Lifetime,” as the corps calls it, to entice the three Lakewood Ranch bandmates to audition.

But it didn’t hurt.

During November auditions, the Crusaders hinted at the march as a possibility.

Still, it seemed like a distant possibility.

By early December, at a winter camp, the Crusaders’ assistant director said the march in Washington, D.C., would happen.

Vaadi, Curry and Hyatt hastily sent in online applications to the Crusaders, vying to be one of 150 to march for the president.

Then, Dec. 23, Vaadi’s birthday, they got the call.

“It was an awesome gift,” Vaadi said.

The trip started like any other, with packing.

The usually mundane task of stuffing clothes and toiletries into bags became an adventure for the life-long Florida residents, who bought mittens, long socks and other items they’d never worn before.

Curry and Vaadi flew to Washington, D.C., the Friday before the parade, in time to prepare with other horn and percussionists at Bladensburg High School, where they also slept on blow-up mattresses and sleeping bags on the gym floor.

They saw landmarks such as the Capital building and the Library of Congress.

Hyatt, the flag waver, flew up with the color guard Saturday.

On Saturday and Sunday before the parade, the trio kept to a strict schedule, marching and reading notes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with no free time to explore.

The performance came Monday, Martin Luther King Day, well after President Obama delivered his second inaugural address from the Capitol just after noon, in front about 600,000 people assembled on the National Mall.

Prior to the trip, Curry, whose sister, Ilsa, a music major at the University of Central Florida, played trumpet for the Crusaders at the parade, spoke about the challenges the weather would bring.

“There’s a level of nerves,” Greta Curry said. “You want to make a good impression on the world, because they will be watching.”

After the performance, Greta Curry said the nerves never came.

But the cold did.

“It was unbearably cold,” Vaadi said. “My fingers were frozen solid.”

They fought off the cold with hand warmers and said it didn’t affect how they played.

The trio also got an extra push from some fans.

“The security guards were weirdly encouraging,” Vaadi said. “It was kind of intimidating.”

The trip ended with a giant sleepover Monday night at the airport.

Unsure of when the parade would end Monday, the Crusaders requested participants to fly out Tuesday morning.

As the march wound down and a television camera caught him, Vaadi thought to himself, “I look pretty good.”

Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].

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