Monday July 23, 2012Gator Band - London Bound!
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – She played her mellophone and did the Gator Chomp at the 2010 Sugar Bowl in Tim Tebow's sendoff in a Florida uniform. She was at Urban Meyer's final game and Will Muschamp's first game. She was in Phoenix for the Gators men's basketball team's trip to the Elite Eight in March.
Rebecca Snead has been to most of UF's big sporting events the past three years as a member of the Gator Marching Band.
However, the trip Snead and her fellow band members left for Monday morning is one of a kind. Instead of crossing state lines, the Gators are crossing the Atlantic.
"It's a totally different experience,'' Snead said.
The Gator Marching Band departed for London on Monday to represent the U.S. at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Their departure culminated months of preparation and fundraising to make it all possible for more than 230 band members and staff.
Snead was in the first group to depart Gainesville around 7 a.m. Monday. Groups of band members were staggered throughout the day to bus to Orlando for various flights. Snead had to fly to Houston first. Others headed to Philadelphia, New York and Ontario. The final destination was the same: London's Heathrow Airport.
At 12:33 a.m. Monday, Snead's timeline on Twitter revealed her excitement.
"I've been awake for 17 1/2 hours and I'm exhausted, but this trip is totally worth it,'' she wrote. "Up in 4 hours to head to #London2012! @UFGatorBand."
The sentiment was shared by many others in the UF contingent making the trip to the London Games, which as a Gator-flavored backdrop, features several prominent athletes who went to Florida. Former Gators Swimmer Ryan Lochte has potential to be one of the stars in London, and women's soccer star Abby Wambach is considered a headliner as well.
Two current Florida head coaches – swimming coach Gregg Troy and track coach Mike Holloway – are also in London. Troy is the U.S. swimming team's head coach and Holloway is an assistant on U.S. track team.
Jay Watkins, UF's associate director of bands, is thankful so many people worked together to make the Gator Marching Band's trip to London come to fruition.
"The Gators have been raising funds and working intensely to make this dream a reality for six months and for many it is the pinnacle of their performance career to date,'' Watkins said. "The band is deeply honored by the unique invitations they have received."
By the time the band is scheduled to check into its hotel at 3 p.m. in London on Tuesday – 10 a.m. Gainesville time – many will have slept little in the previous 24 hours.
Snead won't mind if her eyes are a little heavy during the Gators' first day in London. An hour after arriving, the band is scheduled to perform its first rehearsal in London. On Friday during Opening Ceremony Day, the Gators are scheduled to perform a pair of shows at Victoria Park.
The schedule is full during their week-long stay.
"Going to London to perform for the Olympics is in a completely different ballpark,'' she said. "I'm pretty sure playing in front of Buckingham Palace is going to top all of those [previous experiences]."
In their final tune-up prior to leaving for the Olympics, the Gators spent Sunday at the Steinbrenner Band Hall on campus. Gators soccer coach Becky Burleigh and Muschamp stopped by to give the Gators a pep talk.
"They were pretty much telling us we're pretty awesome to get to go on this trip,'' Snead said. "It's a great opportunity and they just told us they are proud of us."
The Gator Marching Band was invited to perform at various events during the Olympics by the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. They will perform in their UF uniforms at most events.
The trip won't be all work and no play. They also have visits scheduled to English landmarks such as Oxford University and Stonehenge. The group is scheduled to depart London on July 31.
"Obviously these are landmarks that not everyone gets to go to,'' Snead said. "We get to go to these awesome places to play to represent UF and the country.