“It Takes a Village: Our No-Charge Trip to Grand Nationals”
Moe & Gene Johnson High School Band
In Spring 2022, our band directors were inspired to take our marching band to Grand Nationals in the Fall of that year but were concerned that it would not be possible with such short notice. Our parents quickly got on board with the idea and started working on a plan to make it happen. In order for the plan to work, we would need to cut costs down which meant that we could not contract it out – parents would have to act as the travel agency. We took 231 students and their directors to Grand Nationals without them paying.
To take every single band and guard member – and their directors – to Grand Nationals without them paying a penny so that every student got to attend.
Every band and guard student so that no student would be left behind for financial reasons.
We had 6 months to raise and commit the funding. We knew we needed to have a large percentage of the money raised by the due date of the first major bill, our bus reservations. That first major hurdle was to occur within two months, in June.
Overview of Planning and Execution
Band booster officers and parent volunteers. Roles were President: Travel agent (organizer, reservations (transportation, hotel, and rehearsals], and itinerary), VP: oversee and organize meal plan crew, VP Support: oversee logistics of moving uniforms, Treasurer: arranged for meal cash and cards, Build crew dads: overseeing the moving of equipment and props.
Tools and Resources
Our parents raised the funds and donated their time and talents to keep costs down. The talents our parents contributed included travel agent skills such as making all reservations, including rehearsal and storage space and organizational skills such as planning meals on the road and at our destination. In addition, our district contributed funds towards meal costs.
Marketing and Promotion
We used social media (Facebook and Instagram) to get our community support to send the band and guard to Grand Nationals. Every time we had a social media push promoting our trip, the entire community engaged and helped us exceed our fundraising goals. We also held regular booster meetings – both general and crew-specific – to provide an update on our collective efforts to achieve our goal. Families left each of these meetings with new vigor in assisting with making the trip happen – whether that was purchasing snacks for the road or doing their part in the next fundraiser to raise the funds needed to meet our goal.
The cost of the trip was $173,000 for 231 students, plus 6 directors, 3 techs, and 2 trailer drivers. We also had 40 volunteers needed for pit and meal crews. We reserved 72 rooms ($21,000+), served or arranged 3,750 meals, reserved rehearsal and storage space at the cost of $4,700+, bus transportation at $82,500+. The remainder of the cost was to pay for trailer gas and snacks.
One challenge we encountered was fatigue of our own volunteers who were getting these arrangements done on top of their paying jobs. We overcame that by providing regular updates as we were achieving our goals and providing encouragement and recognition. The other challenge was that the flu started to run through the band (we rode buses). We overcame that obstacle by having our volunteers donate masks, flu medicine, pedialyte and a lot of Emergen-C and help tend to our sick students!
Yes, our advocacy initiative was effective because we were successful in taking every student, regardless of income, and director to Grand Nationals where the students got to have a most memorable performance and experience.
It was the first time in our district’s history that a band competed in Grand Nationals. Making this trip a reality brought our entire school, district, and community a huge sense of pride. When we departed for Indianapolis, the city even had us escorted out by fire trucks and police cars! The caravan then drove in front of our closest elementary and middle school where the students and teachers all came out to cheer them on! One of our business sponsors even hosted a watch party at our performing arts center.
Advice for others?
First get buy-in from the community before taking on this endeavor because you will need them all! And seek the input from other boosters who have already attended Grand Nationals. They can provide you with insight as to the best places to stay, eat, and logistical obstacles to be aware of.