Rain pelted the Barrington High School Bronco Marching Band during its performance in London's New Year's Day Parade, but no one was complaining.
"It's not a sunny, warm place but we're enjoying our time here," said band director Randy Karon. Knowing there was a snowstorm back home also didn't hurt, but it was the experience the 90 students who made the trip will remember.
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On Sunday, the symphonic concert band performed at London's Cadogan Hall, the home of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, as part of a gala music festival that is connected with the New Year's celebration.
And on Wednesday, the marching band took its place among the invited high school bands from the United States as the only representative school from Illinois in a parade that features more than 10,000 participants.
"It's the largest parade in the world," Karon said. "We were right behind a dance group from Bolivia. It's a very interesting mix. We were right in front of a bagpipe band from London."
He said a high school band from each state is invited to the event, which is viewed by more than 500,000 people in person and more than 280 million in broadcasts worldwide.
"You're hand selected. You come through the recommendation of other groups that have been invited in the past. It's kind of a word-of-mouth thing," said Karon, who is in his 22nd year as the school's band director.
Barrington High School received its invitation in September 2012, giving band members and supporters plenty of time to raise funds for the trip.
"We're not a competitive marching band, but I think we were invited because of the reputation of our band program," Karon said.
The entourage will return home Friday.
"It's a big experience. We've traveled all over North America but we've never traveled overseas. There's so much history and culture here, you just can't help but learn something. We've had a tremendous experience," he said.