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December 1, 2016

Thousands of people lined the streets, November 27 to watch the 85th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade in Hollywood, California, and little did they know they would be in for such a spectacular treat. Character balloons, equestrian units, holiday floats, and celebrities as far as the eye could see—Larry King, Robert Wagner, Erik Estrada, Lou Ferrigno, Deidre Hall, Bill Engval, Jack Scalia, Olivia Newton-John, The Pride of Eastside (TPOE) Marching Band, and many, many, more dazzled the crowds and officially kicked off the Christmas season in Tinsel Town!

That’s right, The Pride of Eastside Marching Band packed up and traveled cross-country to California to deliver some holiday spirit, courtesy of Covington, Georgia! According to Eastside High School band director, Alan Fowler, 80 TPOE members, including 59 winds, 10 drumline, 9 color guard, and two drum majors, flew to California last week to participate in one of the most famous Christmas parades of all time. The trip has been in the works since Fowler learned TPOE had been selected to participate shortly after Christmas 2014.

“It’s long been important for me to take kids places,” said Fowler. “There is nothing like seeing the world through the eyes of kids.  I actually had looked for a parade in California 15 years ago and found this one.  At the time, they only invited bands of more than 100 students.  Over the years, they have adjusted their guidelines and opened the parade up to out-of-state bands of under a hundred that are worthy.  We applied and apparently we were deemed worthy.”

TPOE performed, “Jingle Bell Jam,” while marching through the streets of Hollywood, and once in front of the cameras, they showcased Covington, Georgia, also known as “Hollywood of the South,” by performing the theme to the television series, “In the Heat of the Night,” which of course was filmed in Covington and famously starred actor, Carroll O’Connor.

The 85th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade featured 17 bands from across the country but according to Fowler, not all were afforded the opportunity to stop and play in front of the cameras.

“About a month ago a call went out to see if bands were interested in stopping and playing, and I jumped at the chance,” Fowler explained.

He added that trips such as this provide an incredible opportunity for the students.

“The benefits are immense,” he said. “Not only have most of our kids never been to California, most have never experienced air travel.”

Participating in a parade full of famous celebrities and marching bands from across the country was just a small part of the group’s experience. Even though they flew out Friday and returned Tuesday, the group’s itinerary included a Hollywood coach and walking tour, visits to LA's world famous Original Farmers Market, the Santa Monica Pier, Universal Studios, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and the California Science Center. TPOE members even had the unique opportunity to watch the new Disney movie, “Mauna” at the El Capitan Theatre.

According to Eastside High School principal, Jeff Cher, the band’s trip to California was well-deserved, and a great way to end their successful season.

“The Pride of Eastside Marching Band (TPOE) is a treasure for our school and community,” said Cher. “They have had a truly memorable marching band season with numerous awards at festivals for their halftime show, “Around the World in 8 Minutes.”  I am elated that they were selected for the parade. During the past few years, I have seen glimpses of the hard work that these students, parents, and support staff have invested under the direction of Mr. Fowler.  As I watched online, I was so happy to see TPOE displaying true Eagle Pride as they marched down Hollywood Boulevard.”

Fortunately, for everyone back home in Covington, the Hollywood Christmas Parade was filmed and will be broadcast as a two-hour, prime time special on the CW Network on December 16 at 6:00 p.m. It will be rebroadcast on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel on December 21, at 3:00 p.m.