Eight Area School Bands to March in Tournament of Roses Parade

By Kathy Cutforth, Correspondent

Click on the image for information on viewing the Parade.

Updated 1/2/2023 – If you missed the Parade, watch it online now. The Parade begins at 11:24.


For the eight area high schools marching in the 134th Tournament of Roses Parade on January 2, 2023, it has been a season of firsts.

Nine band directors and coaches plus 394 students form the Wisconsin Northwoods Marching Band. It is the first time any band from Northern Wisconsin has been in the parade. Not only will the combined ensemble be the largest band to march in 2023, but it also will make the record books as the second largest marching band in Rose Parade history.

For the band members, staff, proud families and supporters, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They will march with 20 other bands from all across the U.S., Japan, Mexico, Taiwan and Panama, and perform for 700,000 viewers along the 5.5 mile parade route in Pasadena, California.

“That’s enough people to fill Lambeau Field 10 times!” exclaimed Lakeland Union High School Band Director Bill Richter. “It’s just mind-blowing!” Millions more will watch on television and online.

Marching in the Rose Parade has been years in the making, and countless hours of practice, fundraising and logistical preparations.


It all started in 2018 when Amy (Kauzlaric) Wainscott, an Eagle River native, was tapped to become the 2022 Tournament of Roses Executive Committee President. This position oversees approximately 1,000 “white suiter” volunteers who plan and manage the event each year. In 2019, she asked Northland Pines High School (NPHS) Band Director Forrest Mann if he was interested in applying to march.

As Forrest wrote to parents, “I love the story … that when she reached this exceptional position, she thought about where she came from. A little community in Northern Wisconsin. Something about her experience here kept our community in her heart, even as her life took her very far from where she started.”

There was one catch: a minimum band size of 150 musicians was required. With only 40 NPHS kids volunteering to go, he sent out an email asking bands in the entire Wisconsin athletic Great Northern Conference, plus other schools nearby, if they wanted to participate.

“I thought, ‘Are you kidding me? Is this April Fools or something?’” recalled Bethany Puffer, Three Lakes High School Band Director for grades 6 to 12. As the smallest invited school, with an enrollment of 142 in 2022 and barely a dozen high school band students, she jumped at the opportunity.

And so did other schools including Antigo, D.C. Everest (Weston), Lakeland Union (Minocqua), Merrill, Mosinee, Northland Pines (Eagle River), Three Lakes and Wausau East.

Band directors

Northwoods Marching Band Directors take a selfie (from left): Forrest Mann (Northland Pines), Tyler Schuster (Mosinee), Robert Perkins (Wausau East), Bethany Puffer (Three Lakes), Austin Kappel (Antigo), Elli Wilk (Merrill), Bill Richter with selfie stick (Lakeland Union), Joe Finnegan (D.C. Everest).

The only requirement for students was the willingness to put in the work and be enrolled in high school at the time of the parade. No audition was required. The expected 150 to 200 marchers ballooned to more than 400.

Just as the band directors were recruiting students in 2020, the pandemic hit. Then the 2021 parade was cancelled, shifting the scheduled march date to 2023. That meant that 2022 seniors could not march, but it opened slots for middle schoolers to take their place.

“It has been a blessing really, to go through the pandemic and have this as a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Forrest. “With music, there’s an instant connection that makes band not just a team, but like family. …  Marching band is about learning to be part of a group, in front, back, left and right. It’s hard to describe the feeling.”


Training members of eight bands to play as one started in earnest in 2022 after their spot in the parade was confirmed. It has been a mammoth undertaking, stretching directors and students, and Zoom meeting parameters.

Each band practiced separately as they coordinated their programs. The combined band has had barely more than 10 in-person practice sessions to perfect their technique and memorize every note and movement. No parade route in this area comes close to being 5.5 miles long. To compensate, they have marched in long laps around their schools’ tracks and fieldhouses, braving all sorts of weather, and enduring seemingly endless song repetition.

Looking back on the long hours of preparation, Bill said, “I tell my students practice is a muscle we can use again and again, and push through to do it all, again and again, and to dig deep!”

Playing in a large group is nothing like playing in a small one, explained Antigo High School Band Director Austin Kappel. “It is harder to coordinate 70 trumpets than 10. There is no freedom – everyone and everything has to be where it belongs.” Close attention needs to be paid to technique to “over-exaggerate” the crisp separation between notes.

Students will march in their school band uniforms and wear matching custom shakos with tall red plumes.

Director of the Merrill High School Marching Jays, Elli Wilk, also noted all students needed to be trained to march and hold their instruments the same way, adopting the Merrill “drum corps style roll step” for the entire Rose Parade route.

To make sure they don’t miss their moment on camera, the group will be playing continuously for the first two miles until they pass “TV corner”. Elli explained that each section is divided into thirds, carefully allowing a rolling portion of the band to rest during the march while maintaining a consistent balance of sound. Instruments stay up the entire time to give the appearance that all band members are playing.

The combined band will play Beautiful Wisconsin, a medley of On Wisconsin and America the Beautiful, arranged by D.C. Everest Band Director Joe Finnegan and retired University of Wisconsin Marching Band Director Michael Leckrone. They have also prepared three other numbers for their Bandfest performance on December 30th, taking place at Robinson Stadium at Pasadena City College.

Their hard work has improved everyone’s skill level, not just for the students who will march, but also inspiring their fellow students to keep up, and for the staff to keep the band moving forward. Friendships, collaboration and lessons forged in shared sacrifice have lasting impact.

Austin commented, “Music kids are a little different, not to say other kids are not. But they are motivated, never make excuses, are on time, reliable, and that is really valuable in today’s world. Seeing that makes me want to work harder.”

As the day draws near, Elli has no doubt that they are prepared. “Each day the excitement mounts and they get stronger and stronger.”

Drum majors

Lakeland Union Band Director Bill Richter demonstrates the royal wave to the six drum majors leading the combined band.


Horn section

Fronted by the horn section, the band marches around the inside track multiple times to build stamina.



Drums provide the marching beat in the band’s midsection.



The big sousaphones march shoulder-to-shoulder behind the drums, in front of the electric guitars and saxophones.



Woodwinds and flutes bring up the rear, preceding the honor guard.


Honor guard flags

The 13-member honor guard waves practice flags behind the band. During the parade, they will use custom flags with the Wisconsin Northwoods Marching Band logo.


Northern Pines Fieldhouse

Students crowd into the lobby of the Northland Pines High School Fieldhouse.

Images and videos courtesy of David Melancon and the Antigo, Merrill and Northland Pines High School Bands.


The Rose Bowl and Parade never takes place on Sunday; hence the 2023 event will be on Monday, January 2nd. The parade starts at 8:00 am Pacific Standard Time (PST) in California, which is 10:00 am Central Standard Time (CST) in Wisconsin. The band will march as #22 in the parade lineup.

It can be watched live on ABC, NBC, Univision or RFD TV, or streamed on Peacock. Check local listings to find your best option.

It is also free to stream the Rose Parade on KTLA 5, which provides uninterrupted coverage. Watch live at 10:00 am (CST), or rebroadcasts at Noon, 2:00 and 4:00 pm (CST). The video will be posted later on the KTLA 5 YouTube Channel.

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