SM West band sets record with latest invitation to play in London New Year’s Day parade

SM West band members and local officials celebrated the group’s tenth invitation to the London New Year’s Day parade last week. Photo courtesy Shawnee Mission School District.

Dignitaries from London were in Overland Park last week to extend an invitation to the SM West marching band to perform in the city’s New Year’s Day parade — and mark a major milestone in the process.

With 10 invitations to the parade over the years, no other band outside of the United Kingdom has been asked to perform in the event as many times as the SM West group.

The school’s longstanding positive relationship with the parade organizers has become one of the draws to the band program in the SM West area, said SM West band director Bill Thomas. From a young age, band students dream of getting to take the trip to London to perform on the massive stage the parade presents.

“They’ve looked forward to this since beginning band back in fifth grade,” Thomas said of the student performers. “They grow up thinking about this, dreaming about this. It’s a big deal.”

Organizers estimate that around a half a million people will watch the parade live in London with hundreds of millions across the globe watching parts of it on television.

In addition to the officials from the UK who attended the invitation ceremony, several local officials participated as well. Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach, Sen. Dinah Sykes and SM West area Board of Education member Laura Guy were all on hand as well.

The last time SM West made the trip was three years ago. The group spends a good deal of time and effort raising money for the trips. Just this month, the band celebrated raising more than $14,500 for the trip through a car wash.