The NC State Marching Band, cheerleaders, and Mr. Wuf take part in the Holiday Bowl Parade in San Diego on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. The Holiday Bowl was to host the game of NC State versus UCLA in Petco Park. It was canceled due to the COVID outbreak with UCLA players.

Many have heard about NC State’s failed Holiday Bowl experience in which hundreds of people — including athletes, coaches, band members, student workers and fans — flew from Raleigh to San Diego to play in the football team’s final game of the season. Four hours prior to kickoff, UCLA abruptly pulled out of the bowl due to COVID-19 protocols.

Fans often think about the disappointment the athletes must have felt, but other groups of students also made the long trip and faced a disappointing turn of events. NC State’s marching band, the Power Sound of the South, took around 100 of its members to California to support the football team. They were just as shocked when the news broke mere hours before the game was scheduled to begin. 

With over two-thirds of the band not present for the trip, the group heading to San Diego had to prepare for both its game-time performance and for events beforehand. Jennifer Urbanek, a fourth-year studying animal science, was one of the attending band members.

“We had to learn a new drill,” Urbanek said. “And when we were parading we had to set up differently because there was a significantly smaller amount of us.”

Although this did make the marching band busy, there were also other plans for the band prior to the game, like the Holiday Bowl parade and a battle of the bands with the UCLA marching band. Luckily, the events the band participated in helped to soften the blow of the bad news.

“We played at all of the Holiday Bowl events that they had us scheduled for,” said Katie Phillips, a second-year studying political science. “I think that's what everybody kind of held onto from the trip.”

Ethan Russell, a second-year studying technology, design and engineering education, flew out the day of the game to support his bandmates just to find out the bad news right after landing. 

“I was not expecting it,” Russell said. “I really couldn't do anything but laugh. It was of course devastating after going to that trouble to get there, but it was almost too ironic that it happened.”

After the bad news broke, the band members tried to make the best out of a disappointing situation. Fortunately, the atmosphere the group created was cheerful.

“I was pretty sad that it didn't happen,” Urbanek said. “But I was around people who made it a little bit better.” 

The positive atmosphere that the band members created continued for the remainder of the trip and on the plane ride home.

“Coming back we were like, ‘This is such a funny experience,’” Phillips said. “This is classic NC State sports. To get all the way out there and be four hours from kickoff, and then we don't play the game.”

After coming home, the band found that there were still things to look forward to despite the disappointing end to their time in San Diego. Basketball season is in full swing, so members are excited to be back to performing at games. 

“We knew that when we came back for basketball, we were going to have a really good time and be able to do what we went out [to San Diego] to do, back where we belong,” Phillips said.

After all, there are future traveling experiences that the band will have.

“Our women's team is looking like they're probably gonna go on a pretty far postseason run,” Russell said. “That means — for the band — we get to travel with them, so there's that part to look forward to.