by Maria on March 20th, 2020

Normally, my blog entries are written after events. I summarize the weather, the music and the attendance. I introduce new members and write about what went well, what caught us off guard and what made us laugh.

Unfortunately, this marching season has been anything but normal. Last weekend, we were booked to march two St. Patrick's Day parades: Saturday in Rochester and Sunday in Buffalo.
Thursday afternoon, we got word that the Rochester parade was canceled; shortly after, we heard that the Buffalo parade was canceled. Suddenly, a very busy weekend became a very empty weekend.

Why? Cases of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, were growing at an alarming rate. The Federal Government issued guidelines recommending that gatherings of people be limited to 500. If you think about all the places you go during the course of a week, that would be a pretty generous number. However, these parades attract thousands of people who stand close together to watch the parades and stand shoulder to shoulder in crowded bars to celebrate and socialize before and after the parade.

As confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to grow, the Federal Government lowered the gatherings number to 250, then 50, then 10. More cancellations were announced: Honor Flight in April and the Lilac Festival in May.

These are just the events that affect Kelley's Heroes Marching Band. Hundreds of other events that affect millions of people have been canceled or postponed: high school classes, musicals, proms and sports events; college classes and graduations; church services and weddings; professional sports and entertainment; conferences and festivals. Stores are closed, workers are laid off. We know this must be a dire situation because the New York State Education Department canceled end-of-the-year standardized testing, the IRS extended the April 15 tax filing date by 90 days, and Disney closed its theme parks.

No one knows when it will be safe to gather in large crowds again. Estimates range from four weeks to four months. In the meantime, most people are staying home. Technology makes it possible for many to work or learn from home. Some of us are catching up on all those projects we never seem to have time to do. Others are trying new things: books, recipes and hobbies.

Are these changes temporary or permanent? When we can finally gather again in large groups, will people choose to return to their former activities - like marching band - or will they prefer to fill that time pursuing their new activities? We'll have to wait and see.

by Maria on December 10th, 2019

The temperature was just above freezing, and it was mostly cloudy with a few breaks of sunshine. In Western NY, this is considered good weather for December, so there was a big crowd, especially in the stretch between the monument and the fire hall.

In keeping with our tradition, we marched 360 degrees around the monument, but breaking tradition, we went clockwise this year. Just  as we were coming out of the circle, Mel appeared. We were marching in rows of three, but the flute/clarinet row made room for her to make one row of four.

Usually, we are near the end of the parade in front of Santa, but this year we were closer to the front. When we reached the fire hall, we continued playing as though we were on the street.

We welcomed Jason, a new trumpet player. Many of already know Jason through other bands. We have been working on him for a couple of years to join Kelley's Heroes, and we finally succeeded. He stood out as the man in black.

Pam stopped by to see us, She was there with her granddaughter. Pam played clarinet with Kelley's Heroes for many years but had to take a break. We hope she'll march again soon. Stephanie had a craft table inside the fire hall. She came out to see us while we were playing out front. If we had cymbals, she would have played with us, but they were in Steve's truck back on Maple Street.

For color guard, we had Bob K. and Dennis carrying the banner. For woodwinds, we had Tara on flute; Mel, Kelly and Karen on clarinet; Steve on alto sax; Jack and Maria on tenor sax. For brass, we had Tom J., Bob and Jason on trumpet; Scott M. on trombone; Don H. on helicon (sousaphone); For percussion, we had Don S. on snare drum; Jon and Kristen on bass drum; Andy on cymbals.

This is our last parade of 2019. We'll be back in 2020 starting with the Rochester St. Patrick's Day Parade. See you there!

by Maria on November 27th, 2019

Six years ago, Kelley's Heroes launched a series of Christmas ornaments. The first featured instrument was the valve trombone, the second was the bass drum, and the third was the snare drum. The fourth ornament celebrated our 25th anniversary and featured the sousaphone. The fifth featured instrument was the saxophone, and the sixth was the clarinet.

This year's featured instrument is the trumpet. Our trumpet players are Doug, Mike B., Tyler, Matt H., Kayla, Tom J., Bob, Arnie and Scott W.

The trumpet can trace its roots back as far as 1500 BC when its ancestors were used to give signals in battle or during hunting. These early horns were straight or coiled tubes that were limited to notes in the overtone series. To play in different keys, horn players had to add crooks, lengths of additional tubing, to change the pitch of the fundamental.

Valves were introduced in the 1300s, filling in the other notes and making horns more useful to composers. Today trumpets are very useful in almost every kind of ensemble and almost every style of music, especially marching band.
Our founder, Tim Kelley, was a talented trumpet player and a great showman. He would often hold his trumpet up at an angle, the way it is pictured on the ornament, when he was "showing off."

The flat acrylic ornaments are 3" inches in diameter. For a suggested donation of $5, you can start your own collection of Kelley's Heroes ornaments.  If you would like this one or any of the ones from previous years, send us a message by clicking on Contact on the navigation bar at the top of this Web page.

by Maria on November 27th, 2019

The days leading up to this parade were brutally cold, down into single digits. The weather forecast offered some hope, promising temperatures around the freezing mark. A couple of degrees would make a big difference as to how comfortable we would be and how well our instruments would work.

Additionally, due to construction on Bloor Street, the parade was not lining up in an area with which we were familiar. Some people were concerned about the basics, like finding a place to eat lunch and finding bathrooms.

Apparently not everyone was worried. Kelly took this picture of Irene carrying supplies to the bus. She looks pretty happy! Notice the snow cover in the background.

For the past several years, Bob has been our bus driver. We request him because he takes really good care of us. Sometimes, his wife, Donna, also comes along. She always brings breakfast pizza to start off our day.

Since Donna and Bob don't march with us, they are able to take pictures of us before the parade while we are getting organized and at the end of the parade.

The bus has to stop for the railroad tracks on North Street, and Arnie lives close by. It has become an annual tradition for Arnie to stand in front of his house and play his trumpet as we drive by. Is he barefoot in the snow?

Some of us walked over to Eaton Centre. The Hudson Bay Company attracts large crowds with its decorated windows. This year, the theme was very futuristic, featuring robots and automated toy factory assembly lines. Jodi took this picture of Don S. spreading his arms to match the wings of a snow angel.

Craig and Monica stopped by our hospitality suite. Craig is the Band Director for The Santa Claus Parade. Some of our female band members were painting their fingernails, and Craig just had to join in. Jodi took this picture of Monica painting Craig's pinky nails.

What a good looking group! As you can see, the sky was clear and the sunlight was strong. The latter caused dark shadows in some of our photos. As I mentioned earlier, we couldn't line up in our usual spot on Bloor Street West. Instead, we lined up on Bloor Street East - on a bridge! The horizontal shadow in the photo above is from one of the bridge trusses. We were very lucky to have good weather. There was no shelter on the bridge. It would have been miserable if the weather had been blustery.

There were two first timers: Dennis and Megan. Dennis carried one end of the banner and Megan played alto sax.

Gemma came back! Gemma is Canadian and a trumpet major at Humber College in Toronto. She played with us for the first time last year, and we were happy to have her back again this year.

Russ played baritone with us for the third time. He is one of Josh's colleagues from Prime Time Brass. They did three parades in Canada on Saturday. Then Josh and Russ stayed over night and joined us to march on Sunday.

Irene is still smiling! She made matching quilted Christmas scarves for herself and her daughter, Kim. Irene plays piccolo and Kim plays clarinet. Her other daughter, Karen, couldn't make the trip this year. Maybe next year, Karen!

Cindy, Jack and Matt H. also couldn't make it this year. A few weeks before the parade, Cindy injured her foot and just couldn't take on a four mile parade. Jack was out of state on a family vacation. Matt H. was out of state setting up a new plant for work.

There are three of us who have marched in all 28 parades: Scott M., Maria and Josh. Some years, Scott has played trombone, some years he has played snare drum. Most years Maria has played tenor sax, but she has also played alto sax and cymbals. Josh has always played bass, either sousaphone or contrabass bugle. The first time he went to Toronto, he was only 16 years old!
Some people went all out on the Christmas accessories. Here Theresa, Mike and Karen model their Christmas design sunglasses. Unfortunately, the glitter made the nose-piece feel scratchy, like sandpaper, so they couldn't wear the glasses for very long. Mike is very proud of his Buddy the Elf costume. He danced and zig-zagged the street so much that we joked that he probably did eight miles instead of four. He is used to walking long distances because he is a letter carrier for the US Postal Service.

Tara and her husband, Bob K., show off their Christmas accessories in this photo. Bob, wearing an elf hat, carried one end of the banner in the parade. Tara, wearing a Christmas tree hat and matching green booties, played piccolo.

The photo below is a close-up of Tara playing her piccolo. Notice the mustache. It actually clips on to the piccolo!

For color guard, we had Bob K. and Dennis carrying the banner; Mike H. as Buddy the Elf.

For woodwinds, we had Irene and Tara on flute/piccolo; Mel, Kim, Kelly, Karen R. and Jodi on clarinet; Margaret, Steve and Megan on alto sax; Maria on tenor sax.

For brass, we had Doug, Tom J., Bob and Gemma on trumpet; Scott M. and Zachary on trombone; Russ on baritone; Josh and Matt on sousaphone.

For percussion, we had Theresa on bells; Don S. and Scott W. on snare drum; Andy and Jon on bass drum; Kristen and Stephanie on cymbals.

During the parade, Jodi took this great photo of Steph, Jen and Matt S.  Steph used to play snare drum with us. Then she moved away, and now she's back. Unfortunately, she isn't able to march four miles, so her daughter, Jen, came along to push her mother in a wheelchair. The snare drum didn't fit in Steph's lap, so she switched to cymbals. At one point, the wheelchair got caught in a rut, and Steph almost tumbled out, but Jen quickly got them back on track.

Looking on from the back row is Matt S. playing sousaphone. While Matt was waiting in the hotel lobby, a well-dressed gentleman approached him and wanted to know if he was holding a mouthpiece for a bong. After all, marijuana is legal in Canada. Matt was holding a mouthpiece, but it was the mouthpiece and lead pipe to his sousaphone.

Four miles later, we crossed the "finish line." It was still sunny, but we were in the shadow of a building. The woman wearing jeans in the center is Craig's sister, Pam. She works as one his assistants on parade day.

We always make a circle at the end of the parade and play one last song: Rockin' on Top of the World from The Polar Express. It's one of our favorite songs, but it's too fast for marching. It's quite an accomplishment to play this last song at the end of such a strenuous parade, and we take great pride in having the strength to play one more!
Our last event for 2019 is the Hometown Holidays Weekend in Caledonia & Mumford. On December 7, we'll march in the parade and, if the weather is cooperative, we'll play a few songs in front of the fire hall. See you there!

by Maria on September 20th, 2019

This was one of those times when getting to the parade was the hardest part of the day. As usual, several streets were closed for the festivities. This meant that all traffic had to enter and exit the parking lot at the fairgrounds through one driveway on the south side. There were a couple of parade volunteers greeting cars at the driveway, but they were taking too long with each car. Soon traffic was backed up all the way to the main road - in both directions! Finally, a State Trooper came and talked to the volunteers and traffic started to move a little faster. A couple of our marchers spent more than fifteen minutes in stand-still traffic.

Kristen likes to play the small bass drum. Steve and Margaret keep the drums at their house, but they were out of town, so Maria went to get the drum. She brought the right drum but the wrong harness. Fortunately, Kristen has her own drum from marching with The Mark Time Marchers, so she used that one.

Josh's daughter, Lilly, and her friend, Julie, carried the banner. Lilly plays trumpet in her school band, and Julie used to play cello. They were fun to talk to before the parade, and they did a great job marching in the parade.

For woodwinds, we had Cindy and Maria on alto sax and Jack on tenor sax. For brass, we had Bob and Tom on trumpet, Scott M. on trombone and Josh on sousaphone. For percussion, we had Scott W. on snare drum and Kristen on bass drum.

This marks the end of our summer marching season. We'll be switching gears to prepare for our Christmas parades: The Santa Claus Parade in Toronto and the Hometown Holidays Parade in Caledonia. See you there!

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