BOISE -- After a whirlwind trip to Washington D.C. to play in the Presidential Inauguration Parade, the Idaho Firefighter Pipes and Drums are back home, they have some incredible stories to tell.
The trip had to be planned very quickly, as the firefighters from four departments only found out they were going a couple weeks before the parade. It was realized pretty late that Idaho didn't have a representative in the parade and someone needed to go.
I got a call three weeks ago tomorrow, Pipe Major Michael Menlove said.
The quick work began, coordinating four fire departments groups from Boise, Meridian, Lewiston and Coeur d'Alene.
We'd never played together... before we got to D.C. Menlove said.
The firefighters had to pick music, plan the trip and practice all in between taking fire calls.
I'd be in the middle of trying to get our bus to take us to and from the parade, and the bell would ring, and I'd say 'Sorry gotta go!' Menlove said.
Twenty pipers and drummers, plus an honor guard made the trip. Before Monday's inauguration, the firefighters practiced and went sightseeing.
We saw the monuments and then we came to Pennsylvania Avenue and there's this blue line, and that's the center of the parade route and that's where we're [going to be] walking, Menlove said. We walked past the White House, and that's the first time it really hit me where I was like, wow, we're going to do this, and we better be good!
On Monday, they had to check in at the Pentagon at 9 a.m., and it wasn't until almost 5 p.m. that they began marching, as one of the last entries in the parade through D.C.
It was like the sun was up. There were so many lights. I couldn't see anything, the lights were in my eyes, Menlove said.
As we started to go further, I could see the review stand where the president was sitting. I puffed up my chest and I stood really tall because at that moment, it was worth every bit of it, Menlove said. As we started making noise with the pipes, [the president] turned, and it was like we were the first event in the parade, and we were the first bagpipes he's ever seen. He clapped, and he smiled, and he looked at all of us. And at that moment, I was so proud of what we'd accomplished. I was so proud to be an American.
After the official route, Captain Thomas Moore, the drum sergeant, says there was another special audience: People who couldn't get tickets into the parade.
It was dark, it was cold, it was the end of the parade, they were still there, just to catch a glimpse of the parade. Most of the groups as soon as they hit that fence, they were done. They took off back to their hotels or their homes, Moore said. We saw them all standing there. and they were all watching, so we struck up another song and played for them, and they were cheering and taking pictures and clapping, and that just makes it all worth while. They were like in the cheap seats and we played for them, and that was kind of touching because they really appreciated us too.
Some of the firefighters, including Moore and Menlove kept their kilts on after the parade and went to the inaugural ball.
When we attended the inaugural ball, three out of the four of us wore kilts and tuxedo jackets, Moore said. We stayed outside of the city, so we took the metro back down to the inaugural ball. I guess we were a sight to see.
The firefighters say while the trip was tricky to pull off, it was worth every second and packed with unforgettable moments.
An opportunity of a lifetime. I feel very honored we were asked to represent the state of Idaho, Moore said.
It's an amazing, amazing feeling. It's like the trip isn't over yet. I haven't come down, Menlove said.
A challenge in marching in this parade was the speed. The firefighters say this was much more fast paced than they're used to, and faster than most pipes music is written for.
In addition to fast practicing and fast marching, the pipers and drummers had to do some fast fundraising. The community donated $6,000, and the firefighters unions also helped them out.
The Boise Firefighters Pipes and Drums will perform at the McCall Winter Carnival on Saturday.