OKEECHOBEE, Fla. -- There's only one high school band in all of Florida performing in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC on Monday: The Okeechobee High School Brahman Band.
"Last time through it," instructed band director Clint LaFlam to his 87 band members in the band room Friday afternoon. "Put everything you've got into it. Go ahead."
The drums clicked, and the notes of Patriotic Spectacular enthusiastically sounded out. The musicians marched in place. Lightning forced their outdoor practice indoors.
Congressman Tom Rooney nominated the band. The players have taken the invitation to Washington, DC seriously. They' raised about $70,000 for the trip.
"We've never had an event this big before, so we've just been going at it as hard as we could. Just nonstop," said Ryan Reister, the band captain.
"Even though we're from a small community, we have a lot to offer. We're players, and we love what we do," said drum major Andi Stark.
Okeechobee is one of 25 high school bands from around the country marching in the parade. Band director LaFlam says it's a prestigious honor, one that has consumed his mind with, "feet, spacing, placement, horn angles."
The past month has been packed with practices in and out of school. But Friday, the stakes were higher. It was the band's last practice before it boarded buses to DC.
"They're ready as performers. Their heads are on straight. They know that this is a huge honor and that they have one chance at something they're going to remember the rest of their lives," LaFlam said.
"What makes us special is that we all have heart. When we all play together, we'll be amazing, and I'm pretty sure in Washington, people will see that," said Angel Garcia, who plays the baritone and trumpet.