AP NEWS

Katy students start new year at Tournament of Roses Parade

January 24, 2019 GMT

The Katy High School Bengal Brigade and Cheerleaders welcomed the new year in California where they had been invited to open the 130th annual Tournament of Roses parade.

“It was so exciting to be the opening act at the parade and to be able to perform with professionals and as well as work with such great choreographers,” said Patty Henson, KHS brigade and cheerleading coach. “I think we were all a little bit nervous because none of us had ever done such a performance and it was a really big deal. It kind of made the students feel like real celebrities.”

They arrived in California on Dec. 28 and returned to Katy on Jan. 1. The team included 35 girls and one young man.

“We did not reach our initial goal of sending our entire team to California. We knew it was slightly unrealistic but we were extremely hopeful it could happen,” said Henson.

“Those who traveled had to have a commitment by their families to make up the difference for the money that was not raised. It was a huge sacrifice for some of our families but after the trip, we were all in total agreement that it was worth every penny,” added Henson.

A large number of Katy community members and businesses supported the students, she said. “We love our community! Katy is the best!! We would just like everyone to know that we appreciated their support, their encouragement and their interest in what we were doing during our trip.”

Henson called the California trip “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” For example, at the airport they met a woman who was flying to California to help with one of the floats, she said. “I think that’s when reality set in that this was a really big deal.

“When we landed in Los Angeles, people were asking where we were from and why we were there and every time we mention the Rose Parade people just lit up and spoke about how awesome it is. We would do it again in a heartbeat. We hope that we represented the community of Katy, Katy High School, Katy ISD, our friends and family as well as the Katy Bengal Brigade and Cheerleaders with the integrity all Tigers should have. We want to thank the dance teams and the rose parade committee for giving us this amazing opportunity.”

Henson said the students and chaperones were on the move every day. She called their hotel “beautiful” and noted they only spent about six hours a night there.

“I think the most exciting part was the actual performance on Jan. 1 at the Rose Parade. We were on the street at 3 a.m. for our rehearsal and stayed there until almost 5:30 p.m. It became real for the students and myself when you saw all of the TV stations and the cameras flying overhead. It was just great! It made the all-day practice well-worth the effort.”

The students also got to work with professional performers from Temecula and Jordan Fisher and Chaka Khan and Henson said it made them appreciate how hard they are pushed for excellence in their performances. The parade theme was “The Melody of Life.”

“Professionals have to continually go over and over their material and it made us feel a lot better about the times that we have had to do the same for our routines,” she said. Rehearsal was unforgettable. “We’ll never forget the wind which was blowing at 70 mph,” she said. “It was a tad bit cold but we just worked around it because we wanted to perfect our performance and make everyone so proud of Katy High School and our district.”

The students also attended the finale, which was a more relaxed setting. They wore their game day outfits, represented their schools and hyped the fan club for Anne-Marie, who performed.

“We were standing right in the front and center stage, which allowed us to truly bring in the very last parade float with Anne-Marie. We were excited to be the beginning performance and then the final one for the 2019 Rose Parade,” said Henson. “I think the sheer number of people at the parade and the excitement that they brought to the event was just a feeling that the students, their parents and myself will never forget.”

They also got to do a bit of sight-seeing and visited Hollywood Boulevard, Universal Studios and the Santa Monica Pier.

“When we first arrived to California, our first visit was to Hollywood Boulevard,” said Henson. “We had the opportunity to get a group photo right in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Where else do you get to do that?”

karen.zurawski@chron.com