CHS Marching Band Misses Starlight Parade Due to Bus No-Show; District Investigating

Canby School District is investigating an apparent miscommunication that led to more than 100 members of the award-winning Canby High School marching band missing their chance to participate in the popular Starlight Parade Saturday night — because the school buses that were supposed to take them to Portland never showed up.

Part of the Portland Rose Festival, the Starlight Parade draws an estimated 325,000 live spectators each year, not to mention those watching the live broadcast at home.

Canby’s band was thrilled to get the invite and had spent hours working on a new piece, the March Creole, specifically for the event. As planned, they met at the Canby Fine Arts Center, in uniform, bubbling with excitement. But their bus never showed.

Instead, the band marched around the high school parking lot. They did a fantastic job, and their preparation is obvious.

They were cheered on by parents (those who hadn’t dropped their kids off and already headed to Portland, to actually watch the parade) and a handful of curious passers-by who stopped to see what was going on.

But for students who were expecting to perform for hundreds of thousands, it had to be a terrible letdown.

“My son absolutely loves marching band,” one parent told us. “He was so excited for us to do it one more time for the parade. So many class hours, and practices, parents working to get uniforms fitted, and just genuine dedication goes in to marching as a whole. They looked SO fantastic! That’s some proof of how hard they worked.”

When the buses failed to arrive on time Saturday, band teachers and parents began making calls, trying to reach Student Transportation of America (Canby’s contracted bus provider), district administration and staff — anyone who might be able to help.

“There were at least four admins that were contacted and working feverishly when they heard there was an issue,” said another parent, who asked to remain anonymous. “Absolute kudos to them for halting whatever they were doing, getting on their phones and trying to work some magic.”

Some parents even posted on Facebook and to the local group Canby Now, where they even found a few offers to shuttle students up to the parade.

But it just wasn’t in the cards. Securing transportation for over 100 kids, not to mention band directors, parent chaperones and some bulky instruments, is not something that can be easily arranged on the fly.

In a press release Sunday morning, the district said that the early investigation indicates STA “was not aware of the planned trip and did not receive a request to transport students to downtown Portland.”

“We understand how disappointed the entire CHS band community must be,” the release said. “The district will continue to look into the circumstances around the lack of transportation to the parade and will provide an update on the findings of the investigation when it is complete.”

Though he deferred comment on the transportation issue to the district, Band Director Nick Luchterhand did explain that the district had applied and been accepted to participate in the Starlight Parade following an application process. Only a limited number of ensembles make the cut.

Canby has participated in the past, but not since Luchterhand has been with the district.

“I also am a CHS graduate. We participated in the Starlight Parade when I was a student,” he said. “It was one of my favorites, and I wanted to pass that on to my students.”

But it looks like the band may have its chance to march on a grand stage anyway. The Portland Rose Festival announced Sunday afternoon that they had invited the Canby marching band to participate in Saturday’s Grand Floral Parade.

Luchterhand confirmed the invitation.

“I’m on board!” he said. “We’ll discuss this in class tomorrow and make sure students are on board.”

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