As the clock winds down on 2017, final preparations are being made for the Pickerington High School North Marching Panthers, who will travel to London, England, to perform in that city's New Year's Day parade.

In September 2016, a delegation of English officials -- including Councillor Robert Davis, deputy lord mayor in locum tenens of the city of Westminster, England -- made their way to North to formally invite the school's marching band to perform in the 2018 London New Year's Day Parade.

More than a year has passed since then, and it's now just about time for 140 Marching Panthers and about 85 teachers and parents to take the trip, which will span from Dec. 27 through Jan. 3.

"We are really excited for the opportunity to perform abroad and to be able to take in the culture and history of London," said Marc Parulekar, North's band director.

At the time of its invitation, London New Year's Day Parade Executive Director Robert Bone said, marching bands had become popular throughout England, and the Marching Panthers had set themselves apart from many who sought to take part in the holiday parade.

"I see an awful lot of bands," Bone said. "I have to say, you lot are right up there with the very best I've heard.

"We do not have marching bands like you in the United Kingdom or Europe. The vast majority (of parade-viewers) think you're the best part,"

Parulekar said band members have been working hard during preliminary rehearsals in recent weeks, as well as tune-up practices that started Dec. 18.

He said the parade performance is likely to take care of itself, and band members and directors are hopeful they adjust to the five-hour time difference between London and Ohio.

"There is no perfect way to deal with the time change, but we recommend that everyone get plenty of rest prior to the trip and try to stay awake and avoid naps on the first day in London," Parulekar said.

It won't be all business while the students and chaperones are abroad.

In addition to the New Year's Day Parade, students will visit Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and the Tower of London

Parulekar said they'll also explore many other museums and sites in London. Whereas he said he hopes the trip will be fun and memorable for all who make it, the focal point will remain the parade.

Parulekar said the trip is a historic venture and one that shines a bright light on both current students, as well as past band members who helped bring recognition to the Marching Panthers.

"A performance of this magnitude is the direct result of our students' work ethic, community support and the dedication of all of the students that came before us," he said.

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