This has been quite a year for The District. As we enter the last year of the decade (read info on deciding decades here) we have oftentimes stopped to look around and spoken amongst ourselves about how far the band has come and how much the band has changed. The group has been busy, as always, so allow us to share our year with you.
This year has mostly been just plain fun. We began the year in true District style, with New Years at Tir na nOg, and a favorite pastime of ours, the pub crawl. Those of you that are familiar with the band know that Tir na nOg Irish Pub in Raleigh is synonymous with the Wake and District. For St. Patrick’s Day this year, the band actually had to split into mini-bands to cover all of the requests made of us. We made new friends down in North Myrtle Beach, SC by marching in their St. Patrick’s Day parade to rave reviews from the parade judges and hundreds of attendees. We also rode the Tir na nOg float in the Raleigh parade and at the end of the day, the band came together again to play a myriad of locations around the capital city. The band opened for several musical groups throughout the year, such as the Belfast Boys and Albannach, providing a rousing primer for true fans of Irish music in the Triangle area. The District was even represented in the ever-popular arena of NASCAR, as our pipe major Joseph Brady joined an assembled group known as the Celtic Force Pipers to play the opening ceremony of the Coca-Cola 600 race, held each year during Memorial Day weekend in Charlotte, NC.
A November rite of passage for the District was observed once again, as the Fourth Annual Tartan Ball was held at the Downtown Sheraton in Raleigh and just like every year so far, this year eclipsed all previous years. Each year key members of the group continue to step up and make this event a success. A great time was had by all, and much needed funds were raised to help keep this animal we call the District alive and kicking. We helped to spread holiday cheer this year, marching in Christmas parades in Wake Forest and Selma, and finished out the year playing New Year’s Eve at First Light Wake Forest and finally, as we have ended every year so far, back at home in Tir na nOg. It seems that every year, new doors continue to open for the band, and we look forward to what the future brings.
For the second consecutive year, the Wake and District Public Safety Pipes and Drums entered the field of competition here in the southeast and did not embarrass ourselves. Taking a close 2nd at Loch Norman, First place finishes at Gatlinburg, Greenville and Richmond, a Second place finish at Charleston and wrapping it all in a First place finish at Stone Mountain Highland Games, the District shared the top ranking in Grade 5 for the southern branch of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association (EUSPBA), and finished overall in 6th place out of 117 competing pipe bands.
As was the case last year, several of our members also competed as individuals, bringing home top awards in both piping and drumming. Our own Dr. Alan Armstrong even became somewhat of a celebrity after a very successful year competing in the demanding Piob category and finishing 2nd overall out of 131 players. Thanks so much to the competing members of the District for helping us all walk a little taller. We are proud of you all.
An important part of our mission involves giving back to the community that gives so much to us. This year we helped play along with charities such as the Tir na nOg 8K fun run for Multiple Sclerosis and the Outback Steakhouse Golf Tournament to benefit Muscular Dystrophy. We also shared time with some of the most precious kids we have ever been honored to meet, over at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind, in Raleigh. These kids delighted as we provided a feast for the senses, and they gave more back to us than we could ever give to them. The band also participated in the first annual Wake Forest Irish Fest, promoting the fine heritage behind so much of the music that we play.
As most of you are aware, the Wake and District is a public safety pipe band is committed to serving our brothers and sisters within the public safety community. We performed that mission this year with pride while we played as fire recruits walked the aisle and graduated academies in Raleigh and Wake Forest, and as law enforcement recruits graduated from BLET programs across the Triangle area. The group was honored to be a part of celebrating the arrival of the South Atlantic Fire Expo to the Capital city this year. We also performed this part of our mission with respect and with heavy hearts as we participated in both the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Memorial events in Raleigh and the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in Emmetsburg, Maryland. The band was honored and humbled over and over this year as we were called upon to help honor such dignitaries as former NC governor Bob Scott and former NC Insurance Commissioner Jim Long. As always, our thanks goes out to our brothers in the North Carolina State Highway Patrol for continuing to call upon us as we stand shoulder to shoulder in honor of the fallen.
The state of North Carolina paid a heavy toll this year in the public safety community. Law enforcement officers from Lenoir County, Vance County, Winston Salem and too many other areas paid the ultimate sacrifice this year. Firefighters from across this great state gave all they had to give for their communities. We thank them and their families for their service.
This year was also a year of both joy and sadness for the District. As is the case most years, far too many lives that were close to us were cut short this year. Some were close friends, like Joe Burke, Gary Ragland and Flip Kissinger. Some were even family.
We had one of our beloved members, Pipe Sergeant Bud Barber, move across the country to continue his career. As with any group, some members have gone, but new ones have arrived, bringing with them hope for the future of this band. We also helped one of our own pipers get married in true District fashion, beginning a new journey in his life, as well as adding another spouse to the band (if she only knew).
As 2009 comes to a close, we find ourselves both exhausted and fulfilled. We have once again epitomized our mission statement, whether promoting the heritage of our music, or honoring those who have given their lives in service to us all. As always, we thank all of you that continue to keep up with us, all of you that continue to give your time and money, so we can do what we love so much to do. Thank you so very much. See you in 2010!
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