L.A. Times Festival of Books: USC band sets energetic tone at kickoff

Members of the USC Trojan Marching Band held up one hand each, making the “V” for victory sign Saturday morning at the opening ceremony for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Five cheerleaders clutching pompoms did the same. And it was almost like looking in a mirror for the performers as dozens of children and adults in the crowd followed suit.

It was a "victorious" kickoff to the 19th festival sponsored by The Times. Children sat on parents' shoulders for a clear view of the band; other parents bounced their toddlers on their hips to classic fight songs and even a 1980s favorite, Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker.”

Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein and USC Senior Vice President of Media Relations Thomas Sayles welcomed the crowd, promising two days of exciting events from authors, poets, artists and more.

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“To be well-educated is to be well read. And we are going to beat UCLA this year,” Sayles proclaimed, garnering cheers and whistles throughout the crowd.

During the kickoff, some band members formed a circle onstage and gave their best horse trot to the William Tell Overture. Unfortunately, the stage wasn’t big enough for Traveler, the Trojans' mascot.

But when the band played the Offspring’s “The Kids Aren’t Alright,” Daniel Rojas couldn’t help but bounce his head to the beat and sing the lyrics. The 25-year-old alumnus, attending his first festival, had his day planned out: visit Artist Row, take in sounds from various musicians and stop by the cooking demonstrations.

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Rojas’ friend Grisandra said she was looking forward to “Reading Rainbow,” hosted by LeVar Burton. “But any excuse to come to USC’s campus, he’s here,” she said jokingly of Rojas.

The event, which continues through Sunday, is expected to draw thousands of visitors to the USC campus. Admission is free.

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