Doing the Pulaski polka in Pasadena

High school band, choir entertain at Tournament of Roses Parade

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PULASKI, Wis. — With horns blaring, drums pounding, happy voices sounding and an accordion or two, the Pulaski Red Raider Marching Band and the school’s choir took the city of Pasadena, California, by storm with their energetic brand of bombastic music.

Over 250 students packed up their instruments to celebrate the new year in the Golden State as one of 15 marching bands to perform in the 135th Tournament of Roses Parade Jan. 1.

In addition to their performance in the parade, there were a bevy of performances at Universal Studios and Disneyland. They also participated in the Tournament of Roses Bandfest at Pasadena City College.

This year’s trip marked the band’s fourth invitation to perform in the Tournament of Roses Parade. The band previously marched down the streets of Pasadena in 2007, 2012 and 2017. For the first time ever in the history of the event, the Pulaski High School choir was invited to attend alongside the band.

The process the Pulaski marching band followed to attend this year’s event went back nearly two years and included the submission of audition videos. The choir’s pioneering invitation came after the president of the Tournament of Roses Parade came to Wisconsin and watched a performance.

The Tournament of Roses Parade dates to 1890 and is well-known for the unique flower-covered floats and variety of entertaining marching bands that roll down the parade’s 5.5-mile route through the city of Pasadena.

Jacob Betley, a 17-year-old junior at Pulaski High School, attended the event as a member of the choir.

“It was really a fun trip,” Betley said. “The first three days were full of performances, and there was just so much going on and things for us to do and see.”

Betley’s family operates Betley Family Farms, a 3,000-cow dairy farm near Pulaski.

Betley performed with the choir at several performances during the trip and said that performing with the band at Bandfest was his favorite.

“That was really neat, to perform together with the band,” he said. “It was the first time a choir had ever performed at Bandfest, and being a part of that was awesome. All of the bands performed music that was unique to the state or country they were from.”

Together with the band, the choir performed renditions of “On Wisconsin,” “Burlesque” and the “Pulaski Polka Medley,” a song that Betley said was specifically arranged for the school’s band and choir.

“The choir didn’t perform in the parade, that was just the band,” Betley said. “But we were able to watch the parade. It was really long and really neat.”

Betley was quick to say his favorite part of the parade was watching his classmates perform their marching routine.

“All of the bands were great and a lot of fun to watch, especially our band,” Betley said.

Betley said that the floats the parade is famous for were an amazing sight to see.

“The floats are huge, and they are so neat being made out of flowers,” Betley said. “My favorite was one from a zoo that had all kinds of animals on it. There was a lot of detail.”

Besides their performances, Betley said they were able to sight-see around Hollywood and saw the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Returning home from sunny California, Betley said he brought home many good memories.

“The whole trip was really fun, and being a part of the first choir to ever be invited to perform is something I will never forget,” he said.

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