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Huntsville native Katarina Agnew marches in Rose Parade

Troy student participates in the 2022 Rose Parade
Katarina Agnew and the Band of America preparing to march in the Rose Bowl Parade
Katarina Agnew and the Band of America preparing to march in the Rose Bowl Parade(Claudia Agnew | Claudia Agnew)
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 5:01 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - One Huntsville native rang in the new year on the west coast.

On Jan. 1, Katarina Agnew marched in the Rose Parade in Los Angeles with Bands of America. The Rose Parade, otherwise known as the Tournament of Roses Parade, is an annual event in Los Angeles that precedes the Rose Bowl game.

“The audition process itself was pretty simple,” said the Troy University student. “I looked at the music and it just so happened to be something that I, at my university, play all the time.”

The music selection for the audition was a set of scales and an excerpt from Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa.

“As soon as I got in, my whole perspective on the year and what I was going to be doing kind of changed,” said Agnew. “I’ve never ever, ever done anything as close to how huge this thing was. I’ve never done anything even in the realm like this.”

The week leading up to the Rose Parade was filled with rehearsal. The high school and college students selected to march in the parade had never played together prior to meeting in Los Angeles.

“The rehearsals were pretty awesome but pretty exhausting,” said Agnew. “We’d go to high school parking lots, our most famous rehearsal location, the Angel Stadium parking lot, and we’d be spending a lot, a lot of time with each other. We had sectionals for each instrument and so I’d be spending a lot of time with my section. It was the entire day, nonstop rehearsal. I mean, yeah, we had breaks for lunch, and we had some fun stuff that we did, but we were going going going because we had a job to do. It was amazing. It really was.”

The participants would have indoor rehearsals to practice playing the sheet music and outdoor rehearsals to practice marching technique.

When not in rehearsal, participants would relax communally.

“When I wasn’t rehearsing, me and my friend group would go to the hotel lobby or just somewhere with a lot of space,” said Agnew. “A lot of us brought our Nintendo switches and we’d have these big Mario Kart tournaments and Smash Ultimate tournaments and just spend time together.”

On the day of the parade, participants woke up at 3:00 a.m. and were in uniform by sunrise.

“Some of us tried to go back to sleep on the bus on the way there but we couldn’t because energy was just too high. We were all so excited,” said Agnew.

“Things really didn’t start to hit for me until I saw the Goodyear Blimp ahead of me and I saw a B2 fly over and some of the animals that were in the parade,” said Agnew. “I was like, oh my god, we’re here. We’re doing this. We really are. The closer we got to the start of the parade, the more people there were. It was absolutely insane.”

As Agnew approached the grandstands, she realized how large the event was.

“I kept hearing this stuff about oh, the grandstands right after you make the famous turn. We practiced the turn so much. I kept hearing stuff about all the big grandstands. I kind of thought that the stands at the entrance of the parade were the grandstands” said Agnew. “No, not even close. Once we made that turn, it was just like all these cameras and lights in our faces and the grandstands were so tall I couldn’t even really see the top.”

The parade was a five-mile-long march, but Agnew felt supported all the way.

“The crowd was so supportive. They were cheering for us the entire time. I could hear people shouting out individual sections like go saxes go clarinets you got this. We’re almost there. Keep going, keep pushing, you’re amazing. The support of the crowd was overwhelming,” said Agnew. “I’ve always noticed that the energy of the crowd really influences the performers. There was nothing like what I felt at the Rose Parade. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was incredible. It was insane.”

“It was a little overwhelming at first, especially when we were doing the turn because I didn’t really notice the audience until after the turn had completed because I was really focused on trying to keep my lines straight, especially since I was on the outside of the turn. I had to take bigger steps in order to keep my line straight,” said Agnew.

When overwhelmed, Agnew reminded herself to take a breath and focus.

“You have to focus on your music right now. You can acknowledge the audience later. Just focus, do what you need to do. Do what you came here to do. It was really overwhelming” said Agnew. “After the parade, I just crashed. But it was the good kind of overwhelming because all that energy that was being thrown at me I just lived on it. It was great.”

The parade route was five and a half miles long, mostly along Colorado Boulevard. Agnew conditioned for the route before going to Los Angeles by consistently exercising, performing cardio, and weightlifting.

“I’m used to playing my instrument for that long, but I wasn’t quite used to marching for that long. I prepared and I conditioned before I got there because I didn’t want to fall out. That would have been horrible. That was by far the longest parade I have ever done,” said Agnew. “I used the crowd’s energy to try and hype myself up. I would be telling myself in my mind, you got this. Keep going. There’s just a little more. Just stand up straight if you feel yourself slipping. Come on. You got this. You’re so close. But we made it. We all did.”

Agnew does not think she will ever participate in a parade that length again, but if given the chance she will not hesitate.

“If you see an opportunity like this come up and you can try to do it, do it, you will not regret it. If you see an opportunity, you need to go for it” said Agnew. “Stuff like this is something you do not want to miss out on. Just take really any opportunity that you can get to do something cool.”

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