BHS Marching Pirates prep for the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade

It’s been a long time coming, but they’re almost there.

The Marching Pirates will take part in this year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in Washington, D.C., in April.

Dozens of students marched in formation around Brunswick High School’s bus circle Thursday at the behest of John Birge, the school’s band director. They were practicing to march in the annual parade.

Birge shouted over the noise, directing the students like an officer marshals the troops. After getting all lined up facing a paved lane behind BHS, Birge gave the command for the whole formation to move onto the road and shift position before marching along the road.

“Front row, you’ve got to line up like that and I’m going to point at Braden,” Birge said, pointing at one of the drummers. “Then the song is going to start.”

When he gave the command, the students moved at once as quickly as they could carrying their sometimes-cumbersome instrument, chattering excitedly to their friends and classmates.

Something about the arrangement didn’t work with the front row on that first attempt, though.

“We’ll change the plan,” Birge shouted. “Don’t worry, it’s the first time we’ve practiced.”

The Marching Pirates have been in the parade twice before, Birge told The News, first in 2012 and again in 2018. Both times, it was a combined effort between Brunswick High and Glynn Academy that got the band accepted into the parade.

BHS also performed in the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2014 and 2019.

“Performing in the parade represents an incredible opportunity for our students to see their hard work and commitment come to fruition,” Birge said. “Each of the band students and their families began their musical journey in sixth grade and stayed committed to the program. For many of them, this is the culmination of seven years of hard work.”

Layla Bolen, a senior, hasn’t been to the national capital, and neither has Mary Kennedy nor Tucker Corbit, two of her senior classmates.

“It’s our first big trip with the band,” Corbit said.

They signed up for the trip three years ago and have been working hard since, Corbit said.

“I’m glad we get to end it with a bang,” Bolen said.

Along with their time in the spotlight, Kennedy said they are also going to see the capital’s various monuments and museums and visit a theme park.

“It’s like, Charlie Brown-inspired or something,” she laughed.

The parade will take place on Saturday, April 13, from 10 a.m. to noon along Constitution Avenue NW, between 7th and 17th streets in Washington.

For more information on how to view the event, visit