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Salem band to march in Washington, D.C., parade

SALEM — The Salem High School marching band and color guard is no stranger to prestigious events, having marched in the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades.

In April 2015, the band will return to Washington, D.C., for the National Cherry Blossom Festival parade for the first time since 1968.

“They’ve invited 15 bands to the parade, and we’re one of them,” said band director Marty Claussen.

The 1968 parade was to be one of the first major events the storied band and color guard took part in, but instead, the band found itself on the edges of history in that historically tumultuous year.

The band, which had raised money to travel to Washington, D.C., in 1968 to take part in the parade, found itself in the national capital at the time of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Claussen said he recently spoke to someone who was a chaperone on that 1968 trip about the experience.

“They were down in Washington, D.C., doing some sightseeing and (the students and staff) were at the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian,” said Claussen. “The chaperone stepped outside to get some fresh air and noticed a strange orange glow in the sky.”

The chaperone saw a police officer standing nearby and asked what that glow was. The police officer told the chaperone that King had been assassinated and that the orange glow was fire from rioting in the city.

“The chaperone went back in and got the staff together, and they put the students on the bus and took them back to the hotel,” said Claussen. The decision was then made that the band would leave the city and not march in the parade.

To this day, Claussen said many former band members from 1968 talk about that day.

“It’s neat that we were extended the invitation and we can try to finish what they started,” said Claussen.

The details of the 2015 trip are just beginning to take shape, but Claussen said the school will use the same travel agency it has used for past trips to the Fiesta and Rose Bowls.

The band and color guard will take a coach bus to Washington, D.C., several days before the event for practice and sightseeing. Claussen said he expects to send out sign-up information to parents and students this April to give them a full year to prepare and pay for the trip.

Claussen estimated the trip could cost between $800 and $900 per student, but noted that it is still in the early planning stages.

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