Dear families and friends,
Day 3 and the weather is still sunny, wind-free and beautiful here in Wyoming. With mountains on all sides, herds of pronghorn grazing along the side of the road (not to mention the deer wandering around our hotel this morning, possibly looking for the Starbucks with Ms. Smith), and a bus full of quietly studying children, life is good on tour!! It is Wednesday, and we are on the way to Montrose, our short foray into Wyoming already coming to an end. We are on a hard deadline, as the one open restaurant in Craig, the best possibility for lunch along the way, has told us if we are not there by 11:30 they simply canNOT guarantee seating for everyone.
Our day in Lander was a smashing success. We performed in two different schools for over 700 school children, including those bused in from the Wind River Indian Reservation. The morning show was in a huge gym (an elementary school housed in the old high school), with 400 kids packing WOODEN BLEACHERS!! Normally, I would NOT be excited about this. Bleachers are noisy, there are no aisles for us to work in “Getting to Know You” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and the audience is spread the full length of the gym. For this year’s repertoire, however, it is ideal. Just imagine 400 kids stomping on bleachers to create the South African rainstorm. It was AWESOME! We had thunder that you probably heard in Denver, and the kids LOVED it! Then we taught all 400 of them “Monkeys in the House.” The place was rockin’ just the way we like it.
Following the show, we did a bit of journal and map work, much easier accomplished spread out on a gym floor than on the bus. I think everyone now knows that we are in Wyoming, how we got here, how many miles we have traveled (Did you know there are THREE DIFFERENT WAYS to calculate mileage on a map??!!), we are still looking at the Rocky Mountains, though the back range we now see is the Grand Tetons. Pretty cool. Plus, the population of the ENTIRE STATE of Wyoming is only about 500,000 if you don’t count the cattle or the pronghorn. And did you know why Wyoming is known as “the equality state?” Yes indeed, the first state to grant women the right to vote.
The playground in Lander City Park is now #1 on our ever-growing list of incredible playgrounds. The façade looks like an old mining town, and the platforms, hiding places, swingy and spinny things, balance challenges, hanging bars, climbing walls, balconies, windows and slides went on for days. We could have played there for days! The Arapahoe School from the reservation was also there enjoying their lunch and some playtime, and they were thrilled, not to mention in awe, when our bus pulled up. Mr. Koriath worked out his arms lifting little bodies up to the hanging bars and then monitoring their progress from platform to platform; Mr. Branam raced with the best of them; and Ms. Smith took advantage of photo op after photo op. Ever the kill-joy, I put the kibosh on flipping off the swings from the highest point possible…or any point, for that matter. By the time we left, the hero-worship was in full swing, with new friends offering us everything from their water bottles to cartons of milk to their full lunches, all of which was politely declined.
Lunch was waiting for us at Bramble Creek Elementary, along with a most gracious welcome from the principal. Ham and cheese wraps with a vegetable and fruit bar, chocolate milk, and apologies from the principal that it wasn’t steak and lobster. We told her we have enjoyed many hundreds of school lunches over the years and, relatively speaking, this was steak and lobster. The afternoon school show was not quite as fun, with the kids sitting on a rubber gym floor. The storm just wasn’t the same…and may never be again. We did get several teacher-couples swing dancing in the aisles to “Steppin Out!”
Lander Valley High School was waiting for us right down the street, with a new, beautiful auditorium – nice acoustics, nice grand piano. The only challenge was the 4-5 foot drop from the stage to the floor of the house, with a reeeeeeaaally wide proscenium and the only stairs waaaaaaaay over stage right and left. With a bit of re-staging we worked through that and got everyone to the house for “Getting to Know You,” and the barkers out for the ballgame. We kept the storm on the stage, however, because the aisles were carpeted, substantially diminishing the affect of the thunder, and it was going to take us a really loooooooong time to get back for Laduma.
Pizza for dinner, always a hit, and then the show. There was a great crowd, though they sat all over the house, making “Getting to Know You” a sprint to greet as many people as possible. And P.E. teachers think we don’t get any exercise on tour! The entire show was met with warm and enthusiastic applause, along with laughter and tears in all of the right places. Both “With Cat-Like Tread” and “The Servant’s Chorus” are bringing down the house. “Danza!” starts the show with just the right mix of vocal power and beauty, along with being visually stunning; thanks Mr. and Mrs. Bolton, choreographers extraordinaire. “Trouble, Fly” will forever be one of my favorite songs – so perfect in these young voices, so simple yet so powerful in its message, and so beautifully accompanied by Mr. Koriath. The kids looked fantastic, both for Act I in their formalwear and Act II in the bright t-shirts. Thanks Mrs. Fisher for all your expert fitting and altering, and thanks Jordan, grad-du-tour, for ironing! There was only one almost-mishap in the show. Earlier in the day, Lauren had introduced us to the wonder of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” as a focus/energizing exercise. Emily and Ben were so busy employing this technique as they waited backstage for the Act II entrance that they almost missed it!
Ya gotta’ love these little towns, with the hotel across the street from the theater. We were back “home” and on our way to bed by 9:00pm. Just a few minor issues. Lauren, Paige, and Cait had a French braid emergency. Kent, Aaron and Nikolas had a cologne “leak”…which could be detected from the hallway two doors down. I have no idea how they slept in that room. Some staff member, who shall remain nameless, may have forgotten to return to Rm. 209 for lights out. Ever-thoughtful, Brendan, Matthew, Devin and Thomas phoned at 10:00 to ask if they could go to sleep. I blame this oversight on the aforementioned French braid emergency. It’s way more pleasant and relaxing to sit in a girl’s room and French braid hair than ride herd on a room of boys. Just sayin’. Blaise, Melissa, Sarah F. and Greer would have stayed up all night, with three lights-out visits from Ms. Smith before they finally settled down – or at least got quiet enough that we couldn’t hear them in the hallway. I will say, one of the downfalls of getting to the hotel so quickly after a concert is that the crazy, can’t-wind-down-from-the-excitement-of-a-concert noise and craziness happens in hotel rooms instead of the privacy of the bus. Sleep reports this morning included the fact that Greg slept better than EVER and, according to Kellie, Madi, and Andrea, Revann is IMPOSSIBLE to wake up in the morning.
It is now 10:00am, and we are on schedule for our 11:30 lunch reservation. This morning’s pledge was to finish all homework by lunchtime so that this afternoon could be all-movies-all-afternoon. Mrs. Proffitt just reported from the rear of the bus that this might actually happen. They have been so quiet that I have asked several times if anyone is back there, only to be told, quite emphatically, to stop talking because “we’re in the zone!” Kate A. is still trying to conquer “To Kill a Mockingbird,” with periodic breaks for some Spanish, and Kellie is NOT enjoying “The Good Earth,” as it is “sad and depressing.” Madeline had both a history and spelling test to take today. Those already finished are working on journal entries. Joey has written an amazing story about Cheyenne Frontier Days, though not so much from information gleaned from the museum, as from yearly visits with his dad. Logan is working on his plan for the perfect playground and I expect it will be built someday, as the drawing is quite architecturally precise. All playground ideas (journal entry #3) are very creative and elaborate, with a zip-line and rock wall for Kenny and a volcano pool that shoots you out to…somewhere…for Sarah R. Madi’s dream includes a pool, complete with water slide, and Ben has a lazy river, tree house and roller coaster. Callia has just finished her first journal entry; she is her mother’s daughter! Parker is working assiduously to catch up with his map and journal work. He joined the tour yesterday after completing a Young AmeriTowne project with his class, finished all of his homework in the car on the way to Lander, so can now devote all of his time to tour activities. And in the totally-unrelated-to-anything-but-oh-so-important category, Jayda’s Justin Bieber poster has been STOLEN out of her backpack.
10:45am and Mr. Branam just led the “CooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooLORADO!” cheer as we crossed the border. This immediately inspired a rousing rendition of “The Colorado Song” and journal entry #4: a fifth chorus boasting a different mode of transportation, complete with the appropriate verb and accompanying verse. So far, starting at the beginning, here’s what we have (in the interest of cyber-space, I will not include the verses):
|Verses 1-4||wagon – go||Caldwell and Allen|
|Chevy – drive|
|airplane – fly|
|spaceship – land in|
|Verses 5-??||llama –llam||Royce|
|skateboard – shred||Michael|
|horsey – trot||Caden|
|air balloon – float||Chris|
|blue whale – bounce||Devon|
|shovel – dig||Joey|
|choir – sing||Matthew|
|bronco – ride||Callia|
|Segway – zoom||Greg|
|jetpack – fly||Cait|
|surfboard – surf||Logan|
Lunch in Craig was good and plentiful, a Chinese buffet at the Ocean Pearl. And yes, we nearly filled the place, with the remaining tables taken by very surprised locals. We rotated through the one bathroom as we enjoyed lunch, with many return trips to the buffet table, and we were on our way. Most of the homework is completed, but we sadly discovered that the DVD player in the bus is broken. Perhaps “tragic” would be a better word, for kids and staff alike! We broke up the afternoon with a stop in Parachute for bathrooms, a run-about, and ice cream cones from a shocked, but cautiously obliging couple in a little souvenir shop. Hey, if you advertise the ice cream cones in a giant sign along the highway, I feel you should be prepared to serve them…even to a bus load of 40 people!
We are fast approaching Montrose, and ready to be off this bus, cozy and pleasant as it is. The wind seems to have caught up with us, and Andrew is working hard to keep us on track. We have been sharing performance observations and post-concert conversations with audience members. Many hugs, shouts of delight, interesting questions and hearty congratulations came our way, and always surprise at the realization that the kids are in middle school and rehearse only four hours a week. We have been accepting compliments for them all week, the most enthusiastic coming from Nancy, the breakfast lady, at the Holiday Inn Express. She was at the concert, and telling everyone within earshot how perfectly behaved and neat we were at breakfast. “They didn’t trash the place or anything!” Then at breakfast this morning, she was telling all of the hotel patrons about the performance. We definitely have a new fan. Well, actually, I think we have several hundred new fans.
We’re pulling into the Best Western Red Arrow, and heading to the Camp Robber for dinner, so…
Singing off in Montrose,