Destination: Ireland -

The Patriots are planning their first overseas trip in 25 years

The streets of Limerick, Ireland, old and narrow, offer a much different feel and experience than their Pasadena, California, or New York City counterparts.

But 25 years ago, those historic streets, like those in California and more recently New York, felt the footsteps of the Homewood High School marching band. The Patriots participated in both St. Patrick’s Day parades in 1993 and 1997, in both Dublin and smaller cities such as Limerick.

It’s been a generation since the Patriots took their talents overseas. The band has participated in famous American parades, including the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. But in 2024, the band will travel across the Atlantic for the original St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Members of Homewood’s recent trip to Ireland now have kids in their high school band who will experience what it’s like to travel abroad and represent their school and community.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Wendy Storey, principal of Shades Kahaba Primary School. Storey’s daughter, Merrill, will be a student next school year, the same age that Storey was in 1993 when she went to Ireland as a member of the Color Ranger.

“We have a memory that this group of students will always cherish and cherish,” Storey said.

The trip was Story’s first overseas trip. The Irish people were “cheerful” and she said she had never felt that anyone was unhappy or distrustful of them.

The band heard the news of Flight 2024 at the band’s 50th anniversary celebration in late September.

“It was amazing,” Storey said of the announcement.

Storey said Meryl hasn’t stopped talking about the relationship she now shares with her mother.

Lee Lewis was also part of the 1993 Color Ranger who traveled to Ireland. Her son Glenn will be in the next school year when the band travels.

Lewis said that during family vacations, it would be Glenn’s first time traveling abroad.

“I think it’s fun and cool because it’s something we did,” Lewis said.

Lewis remembered being at their Limerick hotel and seeing videos and photos of their hometown of Birmingham being hit by a big snowstorm.

“It was crazy to see him,” Lewis said.

In 1993, the band participated in a medieval banquet that Lewis mentioned included traditional Irish instruments, including bagpipes, which feature prominently in the show.

Children in Dublin were “fascinated” by the sequin Star-Spangled Girls costumes. Lewis said the kids thought they were wearing the glass because they had never seen sequins before.

It wasn’t until Glenn arrived at Homewood High School that Lewis said she felt the connection between her children and her childhood, attending various elementary and middle schools.

“This is a building I spent four years in,” Lewis said. “Once he reached high school and we went to pick him up [band] Uniform, it was absolutely amazing.”

While it may not be easy to enjoy their achievement at the moment, Lewis said she hopes the students realize how special it is to be part of the band and have this opportunity.

She also said that she plans to be there with her son and the rest of the band.

“I wouldn’t miss a big band trip,” Lewis said.

The band’s manager, Chris Cooper, said a parent recommended the band go back to Ireland, which led to months of research on his part. He said the band managed to land one of the last spots on the show. Cooper and Homewood High School Principal Joel Hennecke will be traveling this March to see an Oklahoma band in action to see what it would be like.

He said the band would hold two rallies on the same day in Dublin and a smaller city. “In the wind,” said the children.

And while Cooper has no plans to step down anytime soon, this does cross out an item on the group’s roster, he said.

“It’s just something I wanted to do before I called it quitting,” Cooper said.