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Better late than never: After many delays and complications, CHS band members finally make it to Florida

  • Chester High School band and swing choir members pose for a photo in front of the iconic Universal Studio sign at Disney Orlando Theme Park. The 38 students include Jasmine Anaya, Josalynn Anaya, Clayton Andrews, Chelsea August, Abby Bollmann, Emma Bryant, Joel Buskohl, Melody Colonel, Noah Colonel, Jerald Copple, Gavin Cowan, Isaiah Ferrell, Chase Gilbert, Jacob Handel, Jesse Heath, Garre Hopkins, Haley Hoskins, Hannah Kaempfe, Lily Lochhead, Kerrington Malley, Cesar Marquez, Rylie McDonough, Aden McFarland, Choe Miller, Luke Miller, Jacob Pfeiffer, Kaleb Rehmer, Brayden Ridings, Lily Smith, William Smith, Mikayla Straight, David Sullivan, Ariel Throop, Julia Venus, Austin Welton, Mason Werner, Conner Wolff and Blake Zappa.

    Chester High School band and swing choir members pose for a photo in front of the iconic Universal Studio sign at Disney Orlando Theme Park. The 38 students include Jasmine Anaya, Josalynn Anaya, Clayton Andrews, Chelsea August, Abby Bollmann, Emma Bryant, Joel Buskohl, Melody Colonel, Noah Colonel, Jerald Copple, Gavin Cowan, Isaiah Ferrell, Chase Gilbert, Jacob Handel, Jesse Heath, Garre Hopkins, Haley Hoskins, Hannah Kaempfe, Lily Lochhead, Kerrington Malley, Cesar Marquez, Rylie McDonough, Aden McFarland, Choe Miller, Luke Miller, Jacob Pfeiffer, Kaleb Rehmer, Brayden Ridings, Lily Smith, William Smith, Mikayla Straight, David Sullivan, Ariel Throop, Julia Venus, Austin Welton, Mason Werner, Conner Wolff and Blake Zappa.
    Jim Beers Photo

  • Some of the chaperones and adults who accompanied the students on the 2021-22 Chester High School band and swing choir trip to Orlando, Florida, included, left to right, Carol Kaempfe, Vicki Hoskin, Angie Glodo, Mary Ann Heberlie, Dave Eggemeyer, Joyce Sternberg, Vicky Beers, Jim Beers, Steve Colonel, Sue Colonel and Steven Colonel. Not pictured: Chelsi Mueller, Nikki Malley, and Melissa Straight.

    Some of the chaperones and adults who accompanied the students on the 2021-22 Chester High School band and swing choir trip to Orlando, Florida, included, left to right, Carol Kaempfe, Vicki Hoskin, Angie Glodo, Mary Ann Heberlie, Dave Eggemeyer, Joyce Sternberg, Vicky Beers, Jim Beers, Steve Colonel, Sue Colonel and Steven Colonel. Not pictured: Chelsi Mueller, Nikki Malley, and Melissa Straight.
    Photo by Melody Colonel

  • The light and fireworks show at Disney's Magic Kingdom was one of the highlights of the 2021-22 CHS band and swing choir trip to Florida.

    The light and fireworks show at Disney's Magic Kingdom was one of the highlights of the 2021-22 CHS band and swing choir trip to Florida.
    Jim Beers Photo

 
BY JIM BEERS
Contributing Writer
updated: 6/14/2022 4:15 PM

The Chester High School Band 2021 Florida trip is in the books.

Yes, it is 2022 and the CHS band members just returned from Florida last Wednesday, June 8. But after numerous delays, complications and changes, the trip originally planned for 2021 has finally wrapped up.

This was not your standard band trip to Florida, however.

CHS Band and Choral Director Steve Colonel started the Florida trip tradition in 2001 when the concert band and swing choir first competed at Walt Disney World in Orlando. The trip was such a success that Colonel began organizing a trip every four years so his musicians would have the opportunity to make the trip once during their high school careers.

Colonel took groups to Florida in 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013, and 2017. Then came COVID-19. School was shut down. Disney was closed. And when Disney did reopen, the program was strictly limited.

The Chester band program also suffered during the pandemic. Unable to meet as a group and not finding much pleasure in playing on their own, many students quit band and choral classes. Beginner students had difficulty learning remotely. Even once students returned to in-person learning, social distancing made making music more difficult and less fun.

Things started looking up in the fall of 2021, but there was one more twist. Though Disney reopened for bands and choirs, it was not hosting competitions as before. Instead, high school musical groups were welcome to perform inside the Disney parks. But having already lost a substantial number of students, Colonel did not feel CHS had the time or musicians to properly prepare for a Disney performance.

So, now what? Colonel decided the Florida trip would go on, but without a show. This trip would just be for fun -- a reward for the students who had stuck with the band program and already raised money for the trip. Even Class of 2021 graduates were invited to take part.

Though their numbers were small -- 38 kids, seven chaperones and seven other adults on only one charter bus compared to the usual three -- the trip would go on.

The students left from CHS on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 1, and returned home June 8.

Their week away included stays in Cocoa Beach and Lake Buena Vista, as well as visits to the Kennedy Space Center and Universal Orlando, and Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot Center. Highlights were seeing the ocean at Cocoa Beach, a group pizza party, the light and fireworks show in front of Cinderella Castle at Disney's Magic Kingdom, stumbling on a free concert by Simple Plan, and the evening light show in Epcot.

Colonel said he plans to organize one more Florida trip in 2025 before his retirement in 2026. "The Florida trips offer a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for members of the band and swing choir to travel with their friends on a whirlwind trip to Orlando, Florida," he said.

"Many of the trip participants would never have the opportunity to go on a trip like this if it weren't for their participation in band or swing choir.

"This week I have heard from countless former students who told me that their particular Florida trip was one of the major highlights of their time in high school creating memories that will last a lifetime!"