As it enters 2009, the Pickerington High School Central marching band is preparing for a series of events it hopes will culminate with more than 200 students performing in the nation's two biggest holiday parades.

As it enters 2009, the Pickerington High School Central marching band is preparing for a series of events it hopes will culminate with more than 200 students performing in the nation's two biggest holiday parades.

In the 28 years he's directed marching bands at Pickerington High School and now Pickerington High School Central, Michael Sewell has led students in performances for U.S. presidents, candidates campaigning for president, U.S. senators and Paul Harvey.

He's also taken his bands to parades throughout the nation, including three trips apiece to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

This year, Sewell hopes to make more history by following only Lassiter High School (Marietta, Ga.) in performing at both the Macy's and Rose parades in the same year. The trip to Macy's also would mark an Ohio-best fourth time for a Pickerington school, and the Rose Parade performance would be a fourth such trip for a Pickerington band, which would tie them with Youngstown Boardman High School.

"We're really going to have to work hard," Sewell said. "I think people want us to do it, but it's going to be tough."

Although band is considered an academic class at Central, members must pay $160 to participate. Now, Sewell said, each of the 209 marching band members will have to raise another $1,575 to make the trips.

To achieve the feat, the band will strive to live out its motto of "Service Through Musicianship." Members hope to raise more than $100,000 this year through special fundraising events, such as car washes, a joint performance of the Pickerington Central and North bands, a community picnic and concert to coincide with local July 4 festivities, and a possible dinner featuring Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel and OSU marching band director Jim Woods.

The events are meant to entertain the Pickerington community, and also bring it together. Sewell said that's particularly important because many in the city are divided in their support of Pickerington Central or Pickerington North. He said the community seems further fractured after a series of fights broke out following a Dec. 12 Central-North basketball that included a non-fatal stabbing.

"The major thing we're asking the community is to have an open mind and an open heart," he said. "Realize that regardless what happens at a basketball game or football game, this still is one community.

"They should rejoice in the success of both our schools. I'm trying to ask the community to, as one, help us get to New York and help us get to California."

Sewell said it also will be a challenge to raise funds because some people don't believe he should take two trips in a year.

However, he said, the dual trips are more the result of strange circumstance which befell him than dogged pursuit.

In November 2006, Sewell fell and broke a leg, forcing him to withdraw Central's invitation to the 2008 Macy's parade. Because of that, he applied for the band to participate in the 2010 Rose Parade.

Last March, Macy's officials surprised Sewell and Central band members with an in-person invitation to come to the 2009 parade.

Sewell doubted Central would be asked to the Rose Parade because both Central and North's marching bands participated in it in 2006, and bands must wait at least four years to be invited back.

As luck would have it, that invitation came months after the Macy's announcement.

In addition to the band's fund-raising performances and events, Sewell is hopeful people will support the band through local businesses.

Thus far, Kroger has agreed to donate 5 percent Kroger cardholders' purchases to the band. Information about that venture can be obtained by calling (614) 833-6587.

A portion of proceeds from $5 Tiger Cards available through Central also will support the trips. They can be obtained by calling (614) 837-3666.

Additionally, sales of $20 "Entertainment Books," which provide discounts to businesses and restaurants throughout central Ohio will benefit the band, and proceeds from sales of Market Day food will go to the band. Information regarding the books and Market Day goods can be obtained by visiting www.pickeringtonmusicboosters.com, or by calling Market Day at (614) 837-5722.

nellis@thisweeknews.com