Marchers band together

With dancing dragons in front and kung fu associations behind, the marching band from Hoover High School walked and played its way through the Golden Dragon Parade in Los Angeles on Saturday, a celebration to mark the start of the Lunar New Year.

The band was invited to play in the New Year’s parade for the second year in a row by the Jan Ying Assn., a Chinese social and cultural club located in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. The Lunar New Year started Thursday.

Last year Henry Wong, whose son, Kenny Wong, plays in the band, came up with the idea of trying to bring the Hoover marching band into the parade. He talked to his father, Gregory Wong, who is a member of the Jan Ying Assn., and the association decided to sponsor the band’s participation in the parade.

Henry Wong said he was interested in fostering some cross-cultural learning by introducing the ethnically and culturally diverse marching band to Chinese culture. Also, he said he thought the students would enjoy seeing the parade up-close.

“I felt really proud last year that our band was there,” Henry Wong said. “People seemed to really like them a lot.”

Both this year and last, the association paid for the band’s entrance fee to the parade, took the students from Glendale to Chinatown in a school bus and gave them a pre-parade lunch in the association’s center, which is a block away from the parade route.

“We’re very, very happy and thankful for your school,” Gregory Wong said.

The band members had been preparing for the parade all week, marching laps around the school’s track to get ready for a lot of walking, standing and waiting, said Beth Richey, the marching band’s director.

“Just the endurance is hard,” Richey said.

After the band was invited back this year, Richey said, the students voted on whether or to take part, and they were in favor of doing it again.

“It was a lot of fun just seeing so many different Chinese cultural things. It was really cool,” said Eric Briggs, a percussionist who marched in the parade last year. “Being a percussionist, I really like the Chinese drums.”

The students played “His Honor” by Henry Fillmore as they marched the horseshoe-shaped parade route.

The parade also included Chinese dancers and drummers, Chinese dragons that writhed around with the help of the people carrying them, and Happy New Year wishes from elected officials like Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was dressed in a Chinese-inspired red silk shirt.

Several other marching bands, including groups from South Pasadena and Lynwood, also participated.

“It’s wonderful. You just feel like you’re part of the heartthrob of Chinatown for one day,” said Greg Imlay, a Hoover parent who saw the students perform in last year’s Lunar New Year parade and went along this year as well.


 ANGELA HOKANSON covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at angelahokanson@latimes.com.

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