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Chestatee band to play in Children’s Christmas Parade
Event set for Saturday in Atlanta
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Chestatee High marching band member Ethan Bowmar, center, performs Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, with the rest of the band as they rehearse in the rain for Saturday's annual Children's Christmas Parade. The annual parade will step off at Peachtree Street and 16th Street and end at Peachtree Street and Fifth Street. - photo by Scott Rogers

The horns are ready to blow. The woodwinds are at the right pitch. And the drums are calibrated.

All is in tune as the Chestatee High School War Eagle Band prepares to march this Saturday in the 37th annual Children’s Christmas Parade in Atlanta.

“Everybody is just really, really excited because it’s huge,” said band Director Daniel Merck.

From 10:30 a.m. to noon, the 230-strong band will join other top schools from across the state in a mile-long parade to support the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta tradition, which raises funds for things like cystic fibrosis research, behavioral health services and new medical equipment.

This marks the third year that the Chestatee band has participated and first time since 2015.

But not just any band gets to participate.

Merck said a stringent application process determines the lucky few who get to join the parade, though representation is strong from all parts of Georgia.  

“The parade committee does a great job of trying to spread the love among the bands,” Merck said.

The band has been preparing for this moment since the early fall, and the parade marks the start of a busy season for players. A holiday concert at the school is scheduled for Monday, for example.

Merck confesses that there are worries about memorizing the music and giving enough time to prepare for each event. But he’s also sure that the band will rise to the occasion.

From previous experience, Merck said he’s taken away a few lessons.

“The biggest thing is the whole TV zone thing,” he said, adding that the band doesn’t want to be caught taking a break when it’s time to shine for the cameras. “We will loop that (music) for the next 20 million blocks.”

Merck said he sometimes tries to give the brass players time to rest their lips, but that his students know the demands of the parade.

“You try to keep the momentum going and keep them playing, but sometimes they tucker out near the end,” he said.

Merck has two full songs planned for the band to perform.

The first, “T’was the Parade Before Christmas,” is a medley of “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls” and a chorus of hallelujahs with a “Go, Fight, Win” chant thrown in.

“It’s a nice arrangement,” Merck said.

The second song, coming at the suggestion of students, is “Let It Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen.”  

Merck said he will rely on band section leaders and officers to keep things orderly amid the joy and chaos of the parade and that the War Eagles are ready to “rock ’n’ roll.”

“They tie it all together … it kind of falls into place,” he added. “They get better and better every year.”

37th annual Children’s Christmas Parade

When: 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, airing live on WSB-TV Channel 2 (ABC)

Where: The one-mile route runs along Peachtree Street from 16th Street to Fifth Street

For more information, visit

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