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Rose Parade: Facing A Canceled Flight, A Texas Dad Took A 19-Hour Bus Ride To LA To See His Son Perform

Three rows of student marchers and the brass players with light and dark skin tones stand firmly on the green football field in mid performance.
The Vista Ridge High School Ranger Band woodwind and brass sections.
(Courtesy of Candy Carlson)
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The flight cancellations threw a wrench in thousands of people’s plans, but imagine if it almost ruined your chance to see your child play in the Rose Parade.

That’s what happened to Byron Rolfe, a father from Cedar Park, Texas. He and dozens of other parents, who were coming to see Vista Ridge High School in the parade, were supposed to be on a short Southwest Airlines flight on Thursday to L.A.

But on Monday, Rolfe found out it was canceled, along with thousands of other flights. 

The school’s band director, Bryan Christian, let families know that their travel agency was gathering options.

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“Ironically, I hadn’t even seen the news yet,” Rolfe said. “There was definitely stress and just the unknown of what was going to happen.”

Two people stand outside, smiling at the camera, during the day with orange fall trees in the background. On the left is an older man with a light skin tone and sunglasses on who's half in view. On the right is a teenager with a light skin tone wearing glasses and a high school band letter jacket.
Byron Rolfe and his son 16-year-old son Brandon.
(Courtesy of Byron Rolfe)

Each Rose Parade, the performance groups bring a sizable support staff and family members to see the show. The team for Vista Ridge High Schooled totaled around 300 people, Christian says. The band students flew through American Airlines and arrived in Los Angeles without a problem, but about 90 parents were left in the lurch.

'A Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity'

Flight or no flight, Rolfe had to get to California. His 16-year-old son, Brandon, is playing the sousaphone (the big brass instrument that wraps around the body), and these aren’t the kind of big moments you miss. But it was especially crucial for Rolfe to come because Brandon’s mom, step dad and brother couldn’t make it.

The big question was, how? The travel agency offered to rebook flights for later or provide a charter bus. Rolfe chose the long option: A nonstop 19-hour, round-trip bus ride to Marina Del Rey.

“It could have been worse. It could have been that there was just no possible way to come, which would have just kind of ruined everyone’s plans,” Rolfe said.

The group was lucky. They found out about their canceled flight in advance, so even by charter bus, they arrived the same day that their flight was scheduled to arrive, Thursday.

Dozens of band performers holding brass instruments walk in formation in their white and black uniforms on a football field. There are pink and orange color guard flags in the air.
The Vista Ridge High School Ranger Band's brass section.
(Courtesy of Bryan Christian)
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Since Rolfe’s son is a junior, this might be his last time on the national stage while in school. The band’s journey to the parade started last year after they made it to the Bands of America Grand National Championships.

“It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him,” Rolfe said. “It was important for me to just support him in that.”

Rolfe, who has a military background, chalks up his outlook on the ordeal to being taught to just “roll with the punches.” While some would be annoyed by the journey, he says it boosted morale.

“It really shows the resiliency of our band community,” Rolfe said. “You can see that in all of the different family members that could have said ‘OK, we're not coming down then, they made a decision to find a way to get out here.”

The Vista Ridge High School Ranger Band will perform at Bandfest on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Robinson Stadium in Pasadena City College, and they’ll walk in the parade on Monday.

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