Fans cram Islander Stadium for ceremony, music, football

The community came out in force last Friday night for the Islander football game between the Islanders and the Lake Washington Kangs. But most of the hundreds of Islanders braved the traffic and cold for more than football — it was All Island Band night — a tradition that brings parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents to the high school stadium on the last Friday night of October. Bearing extra jackets and blankets, nearly all were holding a cell phone or camera pointed at a particular band member. At halftime, the Islander marching band was joined on the field by the coming generation of band musicians — a maroon and white horde of almost 400 young musicians from the three Island elementary schools and Islander Middle School. Each level played a song led by director David Bentley from high atop an orange ladder.

It was a special evening for the London-bound Islander marching band as they were formally invited to the London New Year’s Day parade by the former Lord Mayor of the city of Westminster, Catherine Longworth. The band squeezed into the high school band room to meet the Lord Mayor, who was accompanied by a half dozen people, including a media crew. Longworth, wearing the heraldry scarlet and mink cloak of her office, was accompanied by Bob Davis, the executive director of the London event, now in its 25th year.

The pair and their spouses bravely shared pizza and salad with band members and the community in the teeming Mercer Island High School Commons before the game.

The first year that the parade took place, it was called the Lord Mayor of Westminster’s Big Parade. The parade was renamed in 1994 and for 2000 only it was renamed the Millennium Parade.

The event was started to help businesses in Westminster. It was a day when no one used to venture out, much less into the neighborhood around Parliament, Davis explained; “All of the shops would be closed.” The event has grown to include concerts and other events in the days surrounding the new year.

It also raised “buckets of money for charities,” he said. There is even a competition between the boroughs for who can raise the most.

Started in 1987, the event has raised or donated nearly a million pounds to a wide range of London-based charities.

More than 10,000 performers representing 20 countries worldwide and more than half a million spectators line the two-mile route. Around 200 million TV viewers will watch.

Strolling through the hallways on her way to the stadium, Longworth remarked how fortunate the students are here. She noted on what an opportunity the Islander students will have in London. “It is an important part of any education to travel,” she said.

Looking every bit a noble British politician, Longworth explained her role in coming here was to be an ambassador for her city. “It will be the students’ turn to be ambassadors for their country when they visit in December,” she added.

Longworth was quick to point out that she is not ‘royal.’ She has met the queen and has on several occasions been at the palace as well. But she has yet to meet the young princes, William and Harry, who, she explained, have largely been away at school or in training elsewhere. She said she has met Prince Charles and said “he is absolutely charming and is a very interesting and interested man.”

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