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Grambling gets ready for inauguaration parade

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GRAMBLING, La., (KNOE 8 News) - Grambling State University's World Famed Tiger Marching Band and students, faculty and staff are busy preparing for the 57th U.S. presidential inauguration as "goodwill ambassadors."

"We are ambassadors for the state of Louisiana, Grambling State University, the town of Grambling and all the other HBCUs," said Larry Pannell, who is leading the band for a third presidential inauguration parade since he became band director. "It feels good the second time around."

Grambling State's band played during President Obama's first inauguration parade in January 2009, and the band is the only Historically Black College and University participating this time. The band is only one of two marching bands returning for a second Obama inauguration; the other is the president's Hawaii high school.

"It felt extremely good the first time to have a president of color and you're asked to perform," added Pannell, who's a GSU graduate, "but the second time around is even better now that you're the only HBCU."

The 200 band members, two drum majors and band faculty and staff won't be the only ones representing Grambling State University. The band is busy practicing getting ready to pack four, 55-passenger buses and an equipment truck for the 20-hour drive from Grambling to Williamsburg, Va., where they will stay because they couldn't get accommodations any closer once they got the good news about the parade in late December.

With a waiting list of nearly 50 students, joining the band will be more than 100 university students, faculty and staff in two more, 55-passenger buses, costing over $12,000 each. Students were offered the chance to attend the inauguration for $150, including transportation and two nights in a Williamsburg, Va., hotel, where the Favrot Student Union Board has reserved 33 rooms. They will leave Saturday at 4 p.m. The band leaves separately on Saturday.

Students will be traveling in style as they go about the long journey to the East Coast. "These are executive coaches. Our kids will be comfortable," said Rusty Ponton, dean of student activities. "They are very comfortable buses. They have Wi-Fi, plug-ins for the cellphone, and for students to use their laptops."

Ponton, commonly known as "Coach P," anticipates having a greater experience this second time due to a student getting lost for an hour back in 2009, which he said was the scariest hour of his life. "We learned some lessons from then that we will now bring forth this time," said Ponton. "This year we will use a buddy system and set points where group leaders will check in."

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