Columbus North High School’s marching band will head to Washington, D.C., in January to perform in the presidential inaugural parade.

Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, who began a quick fund-raising effort at the end of November to raise $125,000 to send The Sound of North’s 200 band members and staff to the parade, had reached $93,385 in pledges by Tuesday.

Band director Bill Stultz said with three-fourths of the total needed, it was time to book the trip through a music travel company. Students, parents and band members learned the good news Tuesday, something that brought smiles to a lot of faces, Stultz said.

The Sound of North is set to receive an invitation from the inaugural parade committee, after Vice President-elect Mike Pence, a North graduate, asked Milo Smith to make it happen when Pence spoke at Veterans Day ceremonies at Camp Atterbury on Nov. 11.

Donations have come from a variety of people, ranging from Columbus native and NASCAR legend Tony Stewart, who was once a member of the North band, to a lady in Seymour who called Smith and said she wanted to pledge $25, and then called back and said her coworker was adding $10 — so her pledge would be $35.

All donations have been a testament to incredible generosity of individuals to give whatever they can to support the band, Smith said.

There have been four $10,000 pledges, one between $5,000 and $10,000 and at least two at $5,000 each, Smith said. The rest has come from hundreds of calls and pledges from people who want to help.

However, the fundraising work isn’t done.

Smith is continuing to seek pledges for the remaining $30,000 or so the band will need for the bus trip to Washington, and expenses there. The $125,000 total will take care of all expenses except for the souvenirs the band members might want to buy while at the inauguration.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these kids,” Smith said in an earlier interview. “We need to make this happen.”

Smith, who was breathing a little easier now that the majority of pledges have been made, said it was actually more difficult to raise the first $30,000 than it was the last $60,000.

“I’ve got a lot of people helping me,” he said of the effort. “I’m very optimistic we will have the remainder soon.”

Smith took his own pledge over to Salin Bank on Tuesday, and asked those who had already made a pledge to stop by a Salin branch and deposit their pledge amount in the “Columbus North Band Boosters inaugural parade fund.”

Anyone who wants to be part of the final fundraising push for the final $30,000 is asked to send a note outlining their pledge to milo@milosmith.com and then head to Salin Bank to deposit it, Smith said.

Funds supporting the band have come from all over the state and even from as far as Florida — with Columbus retirees pitching in.

Milo has pitched the opportunity to pledge to those attending Christmas get-togethers for their companies, and was talking up the trip at last week’s home Indianapolis Colts football game, which Pence attended.

The band is planning on taking a bus to Washington on Jan. 19 in preparation for the inaugural parade on Jan. 20. The trip also will include some sightseeing before the band returns to Columbus by bus on Jan. 21, Stultz said.

North’s band has performed in the Tournament of Roses parade in California, but Stultz said an opportunity to perform in an inaugural parade is something few bands experience. The band will perform “A Patriotic Salute” in the parade, he said.

Smith, who said he never played in a band and couldn’t carry a tune if he had a bushel basket, said he had some sleepless nights over the past few weeks, worried that the pledges might not be enough.

But the stories behind the pledges kept him going, from those who said they were once in speech classes with Pence to those from Huntington who had marched in the parade when Dan Quayle was sworn in as vice president, Smith said.

“I don’t like failing,” he said. “And I didn’t want to let the kids down, and I didn’t want to let Mike down. I mean, how’s he going to feel if we can’t get the band there? I just didn’t want to disappoint Columbus.”

Smith thanked all those who had helped with the effort, including the media for getting the word out on the pledge drive. He then returned to the phones to get that last $30,000 in pledges.

“I just raised $20,000 this morning,” he said of his efforts Tuesday morning.

How to help

An account has been established at Salin Bank’s locations in Columbus and Edinburgh to accept donations under the title “Columbus North Band Boosters inaugural parade fund.”

Those who have already pledged are asked to please visit a Salin Bank location to deposit pledge money.

And those who want to help the band complete its $125,000 total are urged to send a pledge to milo@milosmith.com and then deposit the money at Salin Bank.

Salin Bank locations include:

  • 3501 Central Ave., Columbus
  • 655 Third St., Columbus
  • 3950 25th St., Columbus
  • 100 W. Main Cross St., Edinburgh

Anyone with questions is invited to email:

About the parade

To learn more about the 2017 inaugural day parade, visit: inaugural.senate.gov/days-events/inaugural-parade

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.