BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The West High School Viking Regiment marching band has been nominated by Congressman Kevin McCarthy to represent California in the 2023 National Independence Day Parade held in Washington D.C., celebrating the 247th birthday of the nation.

The Viking Regiment band director Erin Wanders is thrilled for her students to experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“To have this invitation extended to us is one of my top goals as a band director. You want to have your kids recognized for all the work that they put into the band… seeing my students be so successful and able to get this accolade has been one of the top highlights in my career so far,” Wanders said.

Wanders adds this trip will be a big wrap-up for the senior class band members and a confidence boost into adulthood.

Senior Lennox Laulu, 17, expressed his enthusiasm for the invitation.

“The biggest thing for me being a drum major is being able to put West high school out there as one of the top schools. Being able to certify ourselves at a national level is exciting to think about,” Lennox said.

Fernando Del Billar, 17-year-old tuba and sousaphone player, joined the band as a freshman and said the Viking Regiment helped him become extroverted and surrounded by like-minded people.

“I was like, I’ll just stick to the grades, but being part of this band made me be more willing to talk to others. We all have very different perspectives and that’s a nice thing to see and experience,” Del Billar said.

The Viking Regiment’s Washington D.C. trip itinerary includes tours of the National Monuments, 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, Arlington Cemetery where the band will participate in a special wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National Archives.

Drum captain Gabriela Esparza, said she sees the trip to D.C. as a learning experience on many levels.

“I not only see this as a fun trip, but also a growing experience. I’m really into government. I find it really interesting not only being able to see the parade and the President,” Esparza said. “It’s also an experience for all my friends.”

But the band is seeking the public’s help to turn the students’ opportunity into reality.

The band accepted the invitation on the basis that they will have to fundraise 100 percent of the cost to attend.

In response, the Viking Regiment Booster Club has begun fundraising efforts to reach its $85,000 goal in the coming months. The hefty price tag will allow 50 students and 5 chaperones, for a four-day and three-night trip to the nation’s capital.

The Viking Regiment Boosters will be holding a fundraising dinner on Oct. 8., at the Bakersfield Elks Lodge on 30th Street, at 6 p.m. for an evening of food, music, auction and dance. The Viking Regiment boosters hope to exceed 50 percent of the fundraising goal.

Dinner will be served by the Viking boosters and alumni and will consist of steak, scampi, and all of the fixings, Wanders said. A live auction will follow dinner, which includes a charter fishing trip, a basket of wine, tickets to the Los Angeles Dodgers in-season game, and tickets to the Bakersfield Condors Hockey in-season game, according to Wanders. There will be several silent auction items for guests to bid on over the evening. Some of the items include a 511 backpack, a movie night basket and a basket of luxury cosmetics items for men, Wanders added.

The Viking Regiment Booster organization is actively adding items to the evening auction block.

Tickets for the event are $100 and participants must be 18 or older to attend. The boosters organization also offers table groupings for tickets. Dinner starts at 6 p.m. followed by the auction at 7 p.m.

To purchase tickets or make donations contact Edith Ruiz at 661-487-0888 or Marc Mejia at 661-586-8083. To advertise at this event visit the Viking Regiment here.