Three New York bands are among 40 groups nationwide that have accepted invitations to perform in the presidential inaugural parade Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C., organizers announced Friday.
The Nassau County Firefighters Pipes and Drums of East Meadow, the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums and the Marist College Band from Poughkeepsie are among those selected to march in the parade after President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence are sworn in.
The groups were on a list released Friday by The 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee as those initially selected to participate in the parade, which traditionally proceeds from the Capitol along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. The list includes other college and high school bands and drill teams, various military and Junior ROTC groups, equestrian drill teams and law enforcement parade units.
Of the two pipe-and-drum bands, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said in a statement, “I know both of these groups well and they are outstanding marching bands and represent America’s police officers and firefighters at their very best. I am immensely proud and honored that these bands will march in the inaugural parade.”
Bobby Hughes, a bagpiper and drum major with the East Meadow group, said Friday that the band had applied to participate and learned of its selection in a phone call about two weeks ago.
The 45-member band, made up primarily of Nassau County volunteer firefighters and based out of the East Meadow Fire Department, launched an online fundraising effort to pay for the trip and lodging. They have about $2,000 toward their goal of $10,000.
“We are going, even if our members have to reach into their own pockets,” Hughes said. “This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
A representative for the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums did not immediately respond to calls Friday.
Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito is a strong supporter of the Nassau County Firefighters Pipes and Drums and said the band is a “huge part of the community.”
The group formed in 1985 and was the first volunteer firefighters’ bagpipe band in the country, Hughes said. They performed for President George W. Bush at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Sept. 11 monument in Eisenhower Park in 2004; were the Nassau County Parade Point Champions in 2008 and 2009; and were Nassau County Parade Champions in 2008 and 2015, he said.
Through the years, they have performed in hundreds of parades and are frequent participants in St. Patrick’s Day parades in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The band also performed at New York Jets game halftime ceremonies honoring first responders in 2001, 2014 and this year. They have participated in fundraisers and benefits as well.
As with the politically divisive 2016 election, there is controversy concerning some events at the inauguration.
Recent news reports said the Marist College marching band’s participation in the parade had sparked concern and anger on the Poughkeepsie campus. Some members of the Radio City Rockettes, also invited to perform, have said they may boycott the event but fear they may lose their jobs if they do. The Madison Square Garden Company, of which the Rockettes are part, subsequently said that Rockettes’ participation in any event is “always their choice.”
D’Esposito said the East Meadow group’s participation is not about politics, but support of a group of individuals who keep the communities safe and help those in need.
“Regardless of politics or who you supported in the election . . . The Nassau County Firefighters Pipes and Drums of East Meadow are always there,” D’Esposito said. “They are always willing to help . . . It is an honor for them to go to Washington and represent the volunteer fire service from Nassau County.”
“We really are representative of Nassau County and specifically the Nassau County fire service,” he said. “I can tell you that . . . in our band, we are not all the same mindset in politics, but everyone is going,” Hughes said. “It is such an honor to be in a presidential inaugural parade.”
The inaugural committee’s news release said the initial 40 groups it announced includes more than 8,000 people.