NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — The Normal Marching Band: the Pride of Unit 5 was invited to participate in the 2025 London New Year’s Day Parade & Festival in a special ceremony Friday evening at Normal West High School.

Bob Bone, the founder and chair and the London New Year’s Day Parade, and Duncan Sandys, great-grandson of former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, made their way to Normal to formally invite the band which is made up of students from Normal West and Normal Community high schools.

Bone spoke to the students about the parade and also gave gifts to the band’s directors Ryan Budzinski and Paul Carter with gifts from the United Kingdom including a Buckingham Palace-used plate sent by King Charles and two coffee mugs.

Bone also mentioned that American marching bands are a special part of the parade because they do not have them in the UK.

The band will have a chance to spend a week in London to perform in the parade as well as visit museums, historic sites, and places of architectural and artistic interest.

Sandys walked the students through the parade route and presented the band with the official invitation to participate in the parade. Sandys said his favorite part of the parade is the finale when the bands play for their last time and the music bounces off the buildings.

“And then you come into what for me is my favorite part of the parade,” Sandys said. “It’s at the end, it’s the finale arena. When you put a band, like the band before us this evening, into that finale arena, playing with the talent they have, the entertaining quality that they have, the music just bounces off the buildings in such a lovely way and it’s a beautiful sound and it’s lovely to watch. It’s a great way for you, the band, to have your last performance on the parade route.”

Parade officials said the 2025 parade will be one of the biggest and best in the event’s history and will be live-streamed across the world. The parade, which spans over five decades, sees more than 8,000 performers from across the globe who entertain about 500,000 on the streets of Westminister London as well as a global TV audience of tens of millions.

The Normal Marching Band was named the Class 6A champion at the Illinois State Marching Band Championships on Oct. 21. The band also received top honors for performance effect and visual performance.

Learn more about the London trip on the Normal Marching Band’s website or the LNYDP website.