Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Orlando, Florida, offers marching bands plenty of opportunities to strut their stuff. The No. 1 parade at that time of year is the Florida Citrus Parade. Step-off is usually the morning of the same day as the Florida Citrus Bowl. It’s televised nationally, and there are usually sports luminaries and other guests hosting the event.
Other bowl game parades and halftime shows are an outstanding way to showcase your band. The Outback Bowl, for example, is in Tampa, which just about 80 miles from Orlando. That means you can enjoy Disney World in the morning, travel for an hour and a half, do the halftime show, and be back at the park for a fun evening. The Florida Citrus Bowl occurs after the parade, so you can do that halftime show too.
Even if you don’t participate in bowl game parades and halftime shows, you can still take part in the excellent Disney performing arts program. You can have the entire band march through Disney World itself as part of a learning extravaganza, and you can do small-group concerts throughout the park too. Disney professionals give master classes, too, so not only can the kids learn something, but so can you.
Once you’ve marched your way into Disney World history, you can doff the shakos and spats and take part in stage shows for your full group. If your group has some serious jazz chops, you can hit the stage for a real “Disney cast” feeling. The same holds true for your concert band. Should you want to bring your orchestra, it can play as well and get the full Disney experience.
Disney World offers participating groups discounted tickets for the various parks throughout the complex. You should check the website for the different deals provided for the holidays because they change year to year.
If the Disney performing arts program isn’t your thing, then you can take advantage of the Universal Stars Performance Programs instead. Universal Studios prefers your group to be at least 40 strong, so smaller groups should consider Disney.
Universal Stars Performance Programs, however, provide bands of all skill levels with a world-class experience of performing for adoring crowds in a magical setting. Universal Studios has a Macy’s parade that is similar to New York’s but doesn’t include the snow! The Macy’s parade combines characters from both Minions and Madagascar to enliven the fun.
Even before that parade, you can participate in the Superstar Pre-Parade. The pre-parade allows you to march through the exact route the Universal Studios parade will take, which means that there are excited throngs of people to cheer you on to greatness.
Universal Studios requires a certain dress code, which includes a prohibition against wearing material from other theme parks. So, if you do both Disney and Universal Studios, be sure to police your students’ clothing to avoid any “Imperial entanglements.”
Universal Studios offers the same kind of master classes and workshops as Disney World, so if you do both parks, you’ll get two perspectives from groups of seasoned professionals. The learning opportunities on both sides of the equation are not to be missed in a career.
The Holiday Music Extravaganza Festival takes place in early December every year, and you can pair that experience with other holiday events to give your group “the works.” You can choose to play for grades, ranking, ratings, or just comments, so every group can get something meaningful out of the festival.
If you’d like to do smaller events, too, then you can start with parades in Kissimmee, Tavares, and Leesburg. There are also boat parades where you could provide music for the event as a relaxed performance. A lot of events take place in Florida before Christmas Day, so if you plan to do some stuff at the two big parks around Christmas, you can do the earlier events too.
As with any major trip with a band, planning is your No. 1 priority. It’s not all about hitting the dot, maintaining the form, and the “glide.” If you take care of all the logistics and plan effectively, there’s nothing to say that a trip to Florida during the holiday season won’t be an experience of a lifetime.