By Joey Cresta May 12, 2012 2:00 AM
PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth High School’s Clipper Marching Band recently got back from an enchanting trip to the Magic Kingdom.
Twenty-five adults traveled with 103 members of the band to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., over April vacation. The band led the Main Street Electrical Parade, participated in workshops and enjoyed the wonder of Disney World’s theme parks.
Meanwhile, the band participated in Festival Disney, taking home Best in show recognition. It is the first concert band Best in show award for band director Eric Gagnon, who has worked at Portsmouth High School for 18 years.
“This puts our program on a national stage,” said performing arts department head Steve Cirillo. “It doesn’t get any more exciting than that.”
Aly Reardon, an 18-year-old senior who plays snare drum and bassoon, said she and her classmates had been anticipating the trip for four years and it exceeded their expectations.
Senior mellophone and French horn player Kristen Fuller, 17, described the trip as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“How many people get to march down Main Street (at Disney World) doing the thing you love most?” she said.
Co-drum major Sabina Gessay, a 17-year-old senior who also plays oboe, admitted to crying as she conducted the band down Main Street, and the others confessed that many tears were shed during their stay.
“Our front row was kind of bawling our eyes out” as “Reflections of Earth” played during the fireworks show, Fuller said.
For sophomore Ally Stillman, 16, it was her first opportunity to visit Disney World. She recalled feeling overwhelmed as she looked up at the illuminated castle and tried to “take it all in” as she played trumpet in the parade.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to top that,” she said.
The students offered thanks to the community for making the trip a reality. According to Gagnon, the community raised $37,000 through fund-raisers and $21,000 in donations to help offset the $155,000 cost of the trip.
“Playing in Disney was playing for them. they are what has built this band,” Fuller said.
Gagnon thanked city residents bill Mortimer and Jack Kelley in particular for “pounding the pavement” to secure donations. He said they alone were responsible for bringing in at least $15,000.
“They were just absolutely amazing in their efforts,” he said.
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