From CEO Bill Powers: We have already plowed our way through a torrential driving rain storm, weathered a two hour delay on I-81 south due to a jack-knifed tractor trailer, and now we have reached our lunch destination, a Burger King in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Our students know the drill. Everyone lines up to place their order. I go last to pay the bill. Just as I get to the register the Burger King Manager puts up her hand: Stop! She then loudly announces to all: the bus driver gets a free lunch! The staff and students laugh. Actually I am driving our Bonnie Brae Knights box truck today. But a free lunch is a free lunch!
For the sixth year now we are headed to the Buckhannon campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College, our home for the weekend. Arriving at 5:30pm due to the traffic problems we discover that the college dining room closed at 5:00 pm. No problem. We load everyone - four staff and eleven students - back in to the vans and set out to look for a place to eat dinner. After cruising the main street we narrow our choices to Kentucky Fried Chicken or Bennett's Steak House. Following our unwritten rule we choose the local steak house. The restaurant staff are pleased to see us. The diners are surprised but friendly. We make a lot of good-natured noise. Appetizers are shared, dinners are ordered, and drinks arrive to keep our guys happy.
Trips have always been a very popular part of life at Bonnie Brae. I am following in the footsteps of past directors who would drive a green school bus to ball games, museums, and camping trips. Being together on the road brings out the best in our students and staff. Arriving after dinner back at our assigned dorm everyone helps to unload and get settled. We walk around the campus just up make up for sitting all day in the vans. Everyone is asleep by 10!
On Saturday we are up early and off to breakfast in the college dining room. There we check out the competition: bands of all sized and shapes, most are local but there are also bands from Canada, Mexico, and Jamaica. After breakfast we practice for a while then head to our place in the parade. Since we have been marching for six years now we move forward to a more prime location, only a block from the beginning of the parade. Our first year we were at the tail end. Soon enough we get the signal to start and set off on our two and a half mile march. The crowds are loud and enthusiastic. When we spot the sign "Judges Ahead" the guys kick it in to a higher gear. The crowd cheers. At the end of the parade we continue to drum for another half mile, back to the campus.
Saturday night we walk downtown to the Strawberry Festival Carnival. There are games, rides, carnival food of all types, and girls. Our guys, still proudly wearing their band shirts, are the hit of the carnival. Everyone wants their photo taken with a drummer. By the end of the evening we are all exhausted and glad to get back to campus. Well, the staff members are glad to get back to campus! The long day concludes with a surprise pizza party in the dorm to celebrate our first place finish.
On Sunday morning we pack up the vans, eat breakfast, and are back on the road by 9 o'clock. We stop only for gas and bathroom breaks. Of course we make the traditional lunch stop at Cracker Barrel and of course we celebrate one of the staff's birthdays. The positive memories made on this trip will last a lifetime. Staff exhaustion will pass.
3415 Valley Road, PO Box 825, Liberty Corner, NJ 07938-0825 Directions