It took five buses, four airplanes and a band director's stretched nerves, but the Evans High School band headed to London on Saturday to march in its New Year's Day parade.
The band will march in the Lord Mayor's Parade, England's equivalent to the Macy's Parade with an anticipated 2 million spectators to line the town's historic streets.
They left Augusta on Saturday morning in a bus convoy to Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport and were expected to arrive in London this morning. There's a five-hour time difference.
"Some of it's been a logistical nightmare," said the school's band director Richard Brasco, who coordinated the trip that includes 162 students and 50 chaperones. "But everybody's excited to be going."
Evans will be marching with bands from Asia, South America and Europe. The band was named last week to lead the parade, an honor it didn't receive in 1991.
The parade is televised in England, but Mr. Brasco was uncertain if any local stations in Georgia would be carrying the event. He said some folks in Augusta may be able to pick it up with a satellite television.
The group will perform their James Bond halftime show, which includes the theme from Goldfinger. A high school band from Chapin, S.C., will also march.
Evans senior B.J. Kilroy, 18, a field commander, said many students are heading to Europe for the first time and that novelty has many excited.
"It's kind of cool," B.J. said. "We've had to get passports. Being our age you don't really get to go overseas that often."
He said the band's field commanders have been practicing a special salute just in case the Queen is in the crowd. She's not expected, but other Royal luminaries will attend.
But B.J. said students will be looking to visit the original Hard Rock Cafe and a production of the Buddy Holly story that's playing in London's vibrant theater scene.
The trip will last until Jan. 4 and include sightseeing at Parliament, Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, Oxford and William Shakespeare's birthplace at Stratford-on-Avon.
Drum major Sherry Guerrero said the band events will be exciting, but many students are interested in hearing the English speak.
"Some people are really anxious to listen to their accents," Sherry said. "It's something you don't hear everyday in Augusta."
The band has been planning this trip since last January when they accepted the invitation. It will cost $285,000 to haul the Evans entourage and put them up in London for a week.
The group raised money through fruit sales, wrapping gifts at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, magazine sales and car washes.