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DeKalb High School's Marching Barbs parade through Dublin on St. Patrick's Day

DUBLIN – Members of the DeKalb High School Marching Barbs fulfilled two years worth of planning and practice as they marched in the 2017 St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Friday.

An estimated crowd of 500,000 people lined the parade route through the center of Dublin, past Trinity College and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, finishing just before St. Stephen’s Green. In addition to the crowd, viewers tuned in from around the world, including many at DeKalb High School. The 100 band members left DeKalb on Sunday and have spent the week awed by many of the things they’ve experienced.

“[I’m] excited,” senior Franny Plagwitz said before the start of the parade. “Kind of tired, but excited to play with my friends. I’m excited to see the other bands. I saw a Bahamas high school band – I didn’t even know they had high school bands in the Bahamas. It’s really cool.” She estimated that she’d had only about six hours of sleep the night before.

Her sister, Misha, agreed. “I’m cold but excited to be in my first parade abroad,” she said. “I’ve seen people from all over the world here. It’s been great and I love it.”

The band members worked to raise money to pay for their weeklong trip, during which they’ve performed at and explored areas from Blarney Castle in the southern part of Ireland, to Belfast in Northern Ireland more than 250 miles away. For many band members, it was their first trip abroad, and a chance to learn firsthand about another culture and stretch themselves personally.

But Friday’s march through Dublin was their big moment, and they’ll return to DeKalb on Sunday evening with an award for best junior band, which they received from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizers. The band will play a final concert in Dublin on Saturday evening before returning home.

Joseph Laskowski, a junior baritone player, said he was so eager to perform Friday that he only slept for four hours the night before.

“I had anxiety,” Laskowski said. “I was pumped for today. It’s a big thing for me.”

“I am so ready,” said Emily Lundin, the color guard instructor. She said despite the long journey and long days, “they got up, they were ready to go. They had all of their uniform parts last night when we checked and everybody seems really excited. I think they’ve been very accommodating here in Ireland, and in general, I think the kids have enjoyed the food so far.”

Drum Major Meghan Hansen said she, too, was confident in her musicians.

“I haven’t been worried about these guys. There’s a reason why it’s this group that’s going [on this trip],” she said. “[Band Director Steve] Lundin trusts us. We’ve worked hard, we’ve tried our best, we’ve put our best foot forward and we’ve had fun.”

Steve Lundin said the trip has gone very well.

“I think the kids went into it not really knowing what to expect,” he said. “It’s been kind of nice to see how many kids enjoyed some of the historic stuff, because, I think, in general when it’s in a book it’s not as exciting. When they see it in real life, it’s actually really cool.”

Lundin said students were impressed with the castles they visited, but “some were too afraid to kiss the Blarney stone.”

“There were a few that I’d hope would kiss it, because there are a few that could use [the gift of gab], but that didn’t happen,” he said.

Ethan Skaret, a sophomore, was surprised to see cultural differences. “

“[In Ireland] people are more polite to each other,” he said. “In the U.S. people act like friends, but here it’s more formal and I really like that.”

He said he enjoyed trying the different food, especially fish and chips.

“I was really surprised about the taste of the food,” he said. “It’s really good. I had heard bad things, so I was worried.”

Sophomore Brendan Szostak not only had to face a fear of flying, he had never traveled out of the country before this trip.

“I would tell people to go abroad again,” he said. “It’s kind of fun to see how others act and to see their culture.”

Jacob Hanson agreed. The sophomore said he worked for two years to be able to take the trip. It was also his first time traveling outside of the U.S. He said the experience was important.

“I feel like traveling actually shows you more of world culture, because sometimes we only see what happens in our own city,” Hanson said. “To come all the way around the world and see someone else’s culture is fun.”

The students toured Belfast and the Titanic Belfast museum, and also visited Belfast’s graffiti-covered peace wall, which was built to separate Protestants and Catholics during a decades-long period of nationalist violence and upheaval known as “The Troubles.”

Sophomore mellophonist Abby Diehl said if she returned to Ireland, she would visit the peace wall again.

“We all signed our names to it,” she said, “So if it hasn’t been torn down by the time I come back, it would be cool to see our names still on that wall.”

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