The tune of "On Wisconsin" can be heard echoing across the Glendale Community College campus this week where the 280-member University of Wisconsin marching band is practicing for its Jan. 1 Rose Bowl appearance.
The rehearsals are becoming a December tradition at the college, said Jon Gold, division chairman for physical education, health and athletics. It is the fourth consecutive year that a band from one of the two Rose Bowl game contenders has used Sartoris Field.
Last year, the college hosted the marching band from Ohio State University, a Rose Bowl contender, as well as the band from the University of Alabama, which competed in the national championship game played at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 7.
"When we had Alabama we had the bleachers almost completely full with people," Jon Gold said.
Several dozen community members, marching band enthusiasts and Wisconsin fans were waiting for the band when it arrived Tuesday at Glendale Community College for its first practice of the week.
Don and Mary Donaldson drove more than 2,200 miles from Minneapolis to Southern California to watch their son, a trumpeter in the Wisconsin band, march down Colorado Boulevard.
"We decided if they ever go to the Rose Bowl we are going," Don Donaldson said. "We turned it into a big road trip."
They said they were most looking forward to meeting other Badger fans, and to the mild weather.
"When we left we had over 2 feet of snow on the ground and it was 15 degrees," Don Donaldson said.
Rick Loomis, a self described Wisconsin band fanatic, traveled to Glendale from Sacramento to watch the group rehearse. A visit to the Rose Bowl was even better than an appearance at the national championship game, Loomis said.
"We were hoping they didn't do so well that they got bumped up [in the rankings]," Loomis said.
Saturday will be the fourth trip to the Rose Bowl for Mike Leckrone, now in his 42nd year as director of the Wisconsin band.
"It is great to be back," Leckrone said. "It has been a long enough time that there is a real sense of excitement. But honestly, when we were here for back-to-back years it was still exciting."
A berth at the Rose Bowl is the most coveted of all the college football bowl games for marching bands and football fans, Leckrone said.
"It is the special bowl game of college," Leckrone said. "There is a national championship and that is very important to the teams, I know, but so far as tradition and everything that goes with it, this is what everybody talks about in the Midwest."