ATWATER -- One by one, striding like soldiers, rows of tennis shoes and pajama-clad pants passed over the pavement.
A shimmering strand of bobbing instruments in the wide-open western tarmac at the former Castle Air Force Base, the Golden Valley High School Cardinal Regime squeezed in another three-hour practice Tuesday morning.
The 30 minutes down to the end of the pavement and 30 minutes back to the cutoff before active airfield space represents 2.6 miles, less than half the distance of the long march they face next week in the Rose Parade in Pasadena.
So they repeat it. Two hours trailing one another in tight lines.
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"It's painful, but it's worth it," said freshman flutist Courtney McCrary.
The band will pack up in the afternoon hours on Sunday, their caravan of four buses and two supply trailers bound for Pasadena.
There will be no going-away party, band mom and booster Sandra Vierra said. "We don't need a party before," Vierra said. "It is going to be one big party during."
The high school students -- and some of their parents -- will march at Disneyland, tour Universal Studios and kick back at Knott's Berry Farm theme park.
But far and away, the most important part of the trip is marching in the Rose Parade.
"I'm most excited about turning the corner onto Main Street and hearing the crowd cheering," said sophomore Brianne Conley, who plays the bass clarinet.
More than one million people watch the annual parade along the parade route in Pasadena. Forty times that number tune in on TV.
They'll perform "Take the A Train," "Mercy, Mercy" and "Boys of the Old Brigade."
Sophomore Jessica Kostecky is looking forward to seeing the procession live for the first time. "It is going to be so much better than HDTV," the flute player said.
The Cardinal Regime will march in the 48th of 89 slots, sandwiched smack in the middle of the Kiwanis -- known for their colorful and complex floats, said band director Greg Christiansen -- and the mayor of Pasadena.
Not a bad spot.
It's a spot that is well deserved, said Lee Pevsner, treasurer of the Regime's band boosters. "By any objective standard this is the best band in Northern California," Pevsner said.
The students agree, but say their hard work isn't the group's only key to success. "It wasn't just us that got to the (parade)," Conley said. "Our friends and family helped us get here."
The band is scheduled to rise at 3 a.m. on Jan. 1 to get ready for the big event, just hours after the New Year's confetti falls.
"I am so excited," McCrary said. "I have been counting down the days for a long time."
As Duke Ellington wrote in "A Train":
"Hurry, get on now, it's coming."
Reporter Danielle Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.
Watch at home
The Rose Parade is broadcast live by nine networks: ABC, NBC, HGTV, Tribune, Univision, Telemundo, Travel Channel, Discovery HD Theater, and Sky Link TV.