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Alabama State becomes first HBCU to lead Rose Bowl Parade

History was made at the 130th annual Rose Parade when Alabama State University became the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to lead the parade.

Nationally acclaimed, the Mighty Marching Hornets, led by Dr. James B. Oliver, is one of two HBCU marching bands appearing in the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. The other is the Florida Agriculture & Mechanical University Marching 100. Both bands join 18 other marching bands at the parade.

One of the world’s most popular parades, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade is seen by more than 70 million people in over 150 countries.

“I’m telling everybody, you have to catch the parade from the beginning, said band director, Dr. James Oliver, “otherwise you are going to miss the best band there is”.

In most cases, interested prospects, which also include floats and equestrian units, apply to participate and anxiously await a response from the parade selection committee. Not in the case of ASU.

“The president of the Tournament of Roses, the first African-American president (Gerald Freeny), reached out and asked if we’d apply,” Marching Band Director James Oliver said. “It’s a historic time, to have the very first African-American president of the Tournament of Roses, and it’s going to go down in history for ASU to have participated in the parade.”

Oliver called the trip a “dream come true. This is a big after Christmas present for these guys and they are excited they are really excited” he said about his band members.

Thousands of spectators lined the parade route but Oliver and the group also made several other special performances including a stop at a nursing home for seniors that aren’t able to attend the parade. That’s all a part of nearly a week of “unforgettable experiences” Oliver said, that would not be possible without the outpouring of community support.

“It’s not easy to raise $300- or $400,000 to make this trip so it means a lot to our university but it represents so much because we’re representing the state of Alabama and we’re also representing the city of Montgomery,” he said.

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