CHS Band Florida Trip 2021 is in the books!

By Jim Beers, Contributing Writer

CHESTER – Yes we know that it is 2022 and the Chester High School Band just returned from its trip to Florida last Wednesday June 8th, but the original trip was planned for 2021, and had to be postponed due to numerous complications related to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

This is a view of the light and fireworks show at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. In the background is the famous Cinderella’s Castle, one f the highlights of the 2021-22 CHS Band and Swing Choir Florida Trip. Jim Beers Photo  


Steve Colonel, CHS Band and Choral Director, began his “Florida Trip” program in 2001 when the CHS Concert Band and Swing Choir, “Sound Affect”, first traveled to Florida to compete at Disney World in Orlando.  The trip was a huge success and the band competed well and represented CHS and the City of Chester in the happiest place on earth.


Colonel organized and planned his Florida Trip Program to take place every four years so that freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors would have the opportunity to travel and perform at Disney as a 4-year performance group. After each trip the 4-year cycle would begin again until another 4-year group would have the opportunity to make the trip.

Chester High School Band and Swing Choir members pose for a photo in front of the iconic Universal Studio sign at Disney Orlando Theme Park.  The 38 students include Jasmine Anaya, Josalynn Anaya, Clayton Andrews, Chelsea August, Abby Bollmann, Emma Bryant, Joel Buskohl, Melody Colonel, Noah Colonel, Jerald Copple, Gavin Cowan, Isaiah Ferrell, Chase Gilbert, Jacob Handel, Jesse Heath, Garre Hopkins, Haley Hoskins, Hannah Kaempfe, Lily Lochhead, Kerrington Malley, Cesar Marquez, Rylie McDonough, Aden McFarland, Choe Miller, Luke Miller, Jacob Pfeiffer, Kaleb Rehmer, Brayden Ridings, Lily Smith, William Smith, Mikayla Straight, David Sullivan, Ariel Throop, Julia Venus, Austin Welton, Mason Werner, Conner Wolff, and Blake Zappa. Jim Beers Photo


Colonel took the CHS Band and Swing choir to Florida in 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013, and 2017 prior to the advent of the Covid-19 Pandemic.  The next trip should have taken place in 2021, but things got off track when school was shut down for nearly two years and Disney was also closed. When Disney did reopen, the program was strictly limited and closely monitored.


While students were taught on-line and band could not meet as a group, Mr. Colonel lost many students who quit band and choral classes.  Students did not find much pleasure trying to play their instruments on their own and new and beginner students had great difficulty learning remotely.


When students were allowed to return to in-school learning, band had to be taught in two separate rooms, with musicians sitting six feet apart, wearing masks and utilizing horn shields. The joy of playing was lost to many students.


The 2021 Florida Trip had to be postponed. Colonel was uncertain of Disney plans and it was decided that travel would not be permitted in the summer of 2021.

Pictured is a view of the Lion King Show at the Disney Animal Kingdom.  This was just one of the excellent attractions sen by participants on the 2021-22 Chester High School Band and Swing Choir Trip to Florida June 1-8.  Jim Beers Photo


When school reopened in the fall of 2021, things were looking much better and both Disney and the Chester School District re-opened discussions regarding the summer of 2022 proposed Band and Swing Choir Trip to Disney.  Eventually it was decided that Mr. Colonel and his band and choir would be able to travel in 2022.  At the same time, Disney also reopened its doors to participating bands and choirs.


Disney was not hosting competitions, however, it was welcoming high school musical groups to perform inside the various parks at Disney.  Colonel, on the other hand, had already lost a substantial number of musicians and did not have the time to properly prepare for a Disney performance.


He therefore made the decision to take the remaining band and choral students who were interested in the trip to Florida as a pleasure trip.  This further allowed those students who had raised money for the trip to utilize their funds and be rewarded for loyalty in “sticking with” the music programs at CHS.


Class of 2021 seniors who had already graduated from CHS were given the opportunity to go on the trip along with the current sophomores, juniors and seniors.  Only a handful of last year’s seniors elected to go on the trip. With all of the confusion and last minute planning that was involved in the trip, many current students also elected not to take advantage of going on the trip.


Colonel said, “This trip we took 38 kids, seven chaperones and seven other adults.  The original 2021 trip was postponed due to ongoing Covid-19 pandemic issues.” A typical Florida trip requires three charter busses.  This year due to limited interest it only took one charter bus to transport the 52 participants.


The 2021-22 Florida Trip took place June 1-8, 2022.

Some of the chaperones and adults who accompanied the students on the 2021-22 Chester High School Band and Swing Choir Trip to Orlando, Florida included (left to right) Carol Kaempfe, Vicki Hoskin, Angie Glodo, Mary Ann Heberlie, Dave Eggemeyer, Joyce Sternberg, Vicky Beers, Jim Beers, Steve Colonel, Sue Colonel and Steven Colonel. Not pictured: Chelsi Mueller, Nikki Malley, and Melissa Straight.  Photo by Melody Colonel


Wednesday June 1st

Students were asked to report to Colbert Gymnasium at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday June 1 at which time luggage was inspected for contraband. NONE was found!


Mr. Colonel then held a brief organizational meeting explaining rules, plans, and directions and bus assignments were announced.  At approximately 4:15 p.m. students began boarding the Southwestern Illinois Bus Company (SWIBCO) Charter bus and by 4:45 p.m. the group departed Chester High School for Florida.


Throughout the night the bus made rest room and stretching breaks every two hours.  Most participants brought a box lunch on board to eat a light supper along the way.


Thursday June 2nd

 At approximately 8:00 a.m. a breakfast stop was made giving everyone a 45 minute break off the bus.


The next stop was at the Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida where everyone had a two hour shopping trip and opportunity to get food and drinks.  At 3:00 p.m. the group arrived at the International Palms Hotel and checked in for the night.


The hotel was located just a few hundred yards from the ocean and most everyone enjoyed swimming in the surf and exploring the sandy beach.  At 6:00 p.m. the hotel provided a catered cookout at the Tiki Lawn Pavilion.  The remainder of the evening was spent poolside at the hotel pool.  Bed check was 12:00 midnight and everyone was excited to sleep in a real bed for the night.


Friday June 3rd

Wake up was 6:30 a.m. and the hotel provided a delicious buffet breakfast at 7:30 a.m.  At 8:30 a.m. everyone checked out of the hotel and re-loaded the bus. At 9:00 a.m. the bus departed for the 1-hour drive to the Kennedy Space Center. The group arrived at the destination at 10:00 a.m. where they toured, ate lunch, saw an I-Max Movie about space and had an opportunity to explore other features at the Kennedy Space Center.


At 4:00 p.m. the Chester group departed Kennedy Space Center for the 1 ½ hour drive to the Townplace Suites Hotel in Lake Buena Vista.  Following check in at 5:30 p.m. everyone enjoyed spending the remainder of the evening at the luxurious hotel pool and water park.  Mr. Colonel provided a FREE pizza party for everyone and by 12:00 midnight there was bed check and lights out!


Saturday June 4th

Wake up was at 6:30 a.m. and breakfast was provided at the hotel at 7:30 a.m. at the bountiful hotel buffet.  At 8:30 a.m. the bus departed the hotel for a full day of enjoyment at Universal Orlando.  A $20 gift card was provided each participant.


At each park throughout the trip, chaperones conducted at last two student attendance and well-checks to assure that all students were safe and accounted for at all times.  Following the evening fireworks, everyone boarded the bus for the trip back to the hotel.  Bed check was 11:30 p.m. and lights were out by 12:00 midnight.\


Sunday June 5th

Wake up was at 6:30 a.m. as usual with breakfast at the hotel at 7:30 a.m. At 8:30 a.m. everyone boarded the bus for a trip to Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. The group spent until 3:00 p.m. at Animal Kingdom at which time there was a student attendance check.  Once everyone was accounted for everyone transferred to Disney’s Magic Kingdom for the rest of the day.


At 8:30 a.m. there was another attendance check after which the group watched the evening fireworks in front of the Disney Castle.  Following the fireworks show and a final attendance check, everyone boarded the SWIBCO Charter Bus for the trip back to the hotel.  Lights out was at 11:30 p.m. and a very tired group of 52 Chesterites bedded down for a much-needed sleep.


Monday June 6th

Guess what, Wake up was at 6:30 a.m. with breakfast at the hotel at 7:30 a.m.  And yes, everyone boarded the bus at 8:30 a.m. for the trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studio.  The morning was spent there and a FREE $20 gift card was issued as usual for meals.


At approximately 3:00 p.m. there was a student attendance check and the group then traveled by gondola for a transfer to world famous Disney Epcot Center.  For the rest of the afternoon and evening everyone visited the attractions in all of the countries represented at Epcot. Guests rode numerous rides, ate dinner and enjoyed all of the attractions.


Some students stumbled upon a FREE concert at the “Garden Rocks” outdoor music arena featuring recording artists, “Simple Life”.  The popular rock group performed three sets of music and entertained a large crowd at the event.


At 8:30 p.m. there was yet another student attendance well-check and the group watched the Epcot evening light show at one of the observation locations in England. At 9:45 p.m. everyone boarded the bus back to the hotel for an 11:30 p.m. bed check and much-needed final night’s rest at the hotel.


Tuesday June 7th

Thursday June 7th was the last full day of the 2022 CHS Florida Trip.  Mr. Colonel gave everyone an extra hour of sleep with morning wake up at 7:30 a.m. and breakfast at 8:30 a.m.  Participants had to pack, check out and load the bus for the final day of excitement.


The final day would be spent back at Universal Orlando for a full day of visiting the many attractions. Most students and adults were fairly worn out throughout the day and many spent a lot of time shopping for last minute purchases and visiting indoor attractions in the comfort of air conditioning.


At 6:30 p.m. with rain threatening, a final student attendance and well-check took place after which the SWIBCO Charter Bus was boarded and the long trip back to Chester began.  On the way back there were just two overnight stops for stretching, food and rest room breaks, otherwise a very tired contingent of CHS Band and Chorus members along with adults traveled throughout the night on their way home to Chester.


Wednesday June 8th

At approximately 8:00 a.m. there was a breakfast stop in Paducah Kentucky after which the tired and weary group loaded the bus for the final leg of the trip. By late morning the group arrived at the gates of Chester where several individuals met them as they arrived with waves and cheers.


Before noon the bus was unloaded and everyone was on their way back home to unpack, rest and get back to everyday life in Chester. Band Trip 2022 was in the books!


Mr. Colonel said, “I will be organizing one more Florida Trip in 2025 prior to my retirement in 2026.  The Florida Trips offer a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for members of the band and swing choir to travel with their friends on a whirlwind trip to Orlando, Florida!”


“Many of the trip participants would never have the opportunity to go on a trip like this if it weren’t for their participation in band or swing choir.”


“This week I have heard from countless former students who told me that their particular Florida trip was one of the major highlights of their time in high school creating memories that will last a lifetime!