TCC Yellow Jacket band performs in Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade

Mar. 19—THOMASVILLE — St. Patrick's Day didn't just bring luck to the Irish this year; the Thomas County Central band earned a coveted spot to perform at the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade after submitting a resume and application in early 2023.

Donned in TCC shamrock hats with specialty shamrock drum heads, the band was featured on an ABC 7 livestream clip, marching down the streets of Chicago to the delight of many Yellow Jacket faithful fans at home.

Band director Joe Regina said the trip was a combination of hard work and fun for his students, many of whom may never have experienced the city life otherwise.

"We got to do a lot of really neat and interesting sightseeing," Regina said.

Upon arriving, the students dined at the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. In past trips, Regina has made dining at the Hard Rock a must-do, as students enjoy seeing the memorabilia along the walls. Following the lunch, students visited the Shedd Aquarium, before enjoying a deejay dinner cruise off Navy Pier that evening.

"It was a big boat and we were given the whole floor with a buffet to eat dinner from," Regina explained.

After dinner, the deejay opened up the floor for the kids to dance the night away.

"The kids kept telling me this was the best night of their life and I was really happy to hear that," Regina said. "They just had a blast dancing, seeing the backdrop of the city and everything."

Allowing the students to cut loose and show off their personalities through dancing opened other band students' eyes to kids they may have not previously interacted with.

Ninth grader Grace Nestle explained she has spent most of her time in band, but got to know her classmates on a different level through the various activities.

"We were put in different situations where I got to know different people and spend more time with them," she said. "We were in close proximity a lot of the time."

After a fun evening of dancing, dining, and deejaying, the band returned to the hotel for an early wake-up call.

Saturday morning, they performed in the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade, where performers took note of TCC's tunes.

"While we were warming up, we started playing some of our stand songs, and other bands were getting into it, dancing," Regina said. "Some band directors from across the country came up to me and told me how great our band sounded, so I was just really proud of that."

Although a daunting experience to perform in front of a live and television audience, the parade was well worth it, according to students in attendance.

"It was a little nerve-wracking, but it was also really rewarding," Nestle said. "All of the hard work we've done this year paid off and people from across the country got to see that."

Not only did TCC students get to be viewed across the U.S., but they also were exposed to musicians, bands, and performances from states spanning east to west.

Sophomore Finn Little said it was exciting to see the groups come from everywhere.

"It wasn't just people from Chicago," he said. "There was a group from Oregon we got to see."

While all the entrants were great, Regina was ecstatic with his band's performance during the parade and treated them to a fun afternoon to celebrate an awesome performance.

The group got to drive around Wrigley Field and attend the Blue Man Group Show, which several students found to be their favorite part.

Ninth grader Emily Mainprize was one of those students.

"It was really fun to watch," she said. "I knew it was going to be a part of our trip and what they were about, but I didn't know they were going to do confetti and streamers and interact with the audience."

Nestle agreed, sharing she loved the interaction with the fans and seeing her classmates get involved in the show.

"I liked the Blue Man Group a lot. It got us all out of our comfort zone a little bit," she said. "A lot of the things they did were interactive, especially the dance party. It let us let go of what other people thought about us."

Nestle went on to say, she also enjoyed the aquarium, though, as it exposed her to animals she previously hadn't seen in action.

"We saw a dolphin show," Nestle said. "It was a specific species of dolphins that we were able to learn about and how they can survive in that part of the ocean and that was really cool."

While Regina is happy the students enjoyed the activities, he was most excited he was able to expose his students to the world and different cultures through museums and music.

One of the numerous sites visited was the 360 Chicago Observation Deck.

The Observation Deck, which sits 1,000 feet over Chicago's legendary Michigan Avenue, enchanted students, especially Little.

"My favorite part was the 360 Chicago," he said. "We saw the entire skyline. I thought it was really cool because on the ground you see the really tall buildings, but once you get up there you don't just see what's in front of you; you see everything behind it."

Taking in the sites is an experience Little wants every student to have and encourages younger band members to stick with it because the opportunities afforded are endless.

"There were definitely times in middle school where I thought it would be so easy to quit band, but I realize now that I would've regretted it," he said. "Even though this is only one trip, I know that there is so much more to come and I would've continued to regret it more and more."

Mainprize agreed, and concluded by thanking Regina and all the faculty who made the trip possible, sharing she would've never experienced Chicago without the band performing.