By LENNIE BENNETT
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- They each spent at least $1,299 for a trip to march in Dublin's St. Patrick's Day Parade, so the band members were obviously disappointed that the event was canceled because of the European outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
But the Second Time Arounders, as their name implies, do not give up easily.
"Rounders live to perform," said Mary Caulfield, a member of the dance line since 1994.
The group of 400 former high school and college band members from the Tampa Bay area negotiated with their Irish hosts. They rejected an offer to perform a concert.
"We tried to make them understand that the purpose of the Rounders is to march," said Bill Findeison, band director. "So they gave us our own parade."
The Rounders are now scheduled to march down Grafton Street, a pedestrian thoroughfare that traverses a historic part of central Dublin.
"It isn't the St. Patrick's Day Parade," Findeison said. "But it's the next best thing."
As far as parades go, it's the only thing in Dublin, according to band leaders. That's because Irish officials canceled the celebration over fears that 500,000 people streaming into Dublin would spread foot-and-mouth disease. The disease is potentially fatal to cloven-hooved livestock and transmitted by anything that moves or marches.
"The other bands are playing for each other in an arena," said Findeison. "We were going there to play for the Irish people. Not other bands."
The Rounders march is not, strictly speaking, an official parade. They will show up at Grafton Street next Saturday morning, get themselves into formation and clear their own way through the crowded street on one of Dublin's busiest days.
"The majorettes will plow through the crowd, making a path," Findeison said.
Angie Brown, a baton twirler with the Rounders for 19 years, will be part of that front line of engagement.
"Our job is to break up the crowd. I don't think I'll have to use my baton as a weapon," she said.
The band is about three times the size of a regular marching band. Assembled, it is a three-block-long behemoth that is likely to get noticed quickly.
"I think they'll hear us before they see us," Mrs. Brown said.
"It'll be like walking through a mall at Christmas time," said Sandy Alcott, president of the band's board of directors and a trumpet player.
The Second Time Arounders band is unique for both its size and the age range of its members, from 18 to 90. It was formed in 1983 by Findeison and Herb Melleney, then executive director of St. Petersburg's Festival of States, an 80-year-old April event that has a parade as its centerpiece.
They advertised for former band members after a conversation speculating about what happened to such musicians after they left school. That first year, 65 people showed up. It was meant to be a larky, one-time performance at the Festival of States. But other former band members, hearing about the Second Time Arounders and wanting a chance to perform again in a marching band, called to join. Today their numbers have expanded to 500.
Copycat bands have formed in other cities such as the One More Time Around Band in Portland, Ore., and the Play It Again Band in Tuscon, Ariz.
The Rounders are loosely organized and their main event is still the Festival of States. They have only five two-hour practices and disband for the rest of the year after the parade.
For the St. Patrick's Day Parade, they added rehearsals to their schedule to polish up the repertoire of songs "from our various American cultures," Findeison said. "We'll play a medley of sunshine songs, like You Are My Sunshine, for the Sunshine State. And Georgia, the St. Louis Blues, Stars and Stripes."
"One of the best experiences with the band," said trumpeter Nile Nickels, a 17-year Rounders veteran, "is the chance to interact with people."
To encourage crowd interaction, he said, "the back line, which are the tag-alongs, sort of like camp followers, will wear signs on their backs that say "Follow me."'
That should not be a hard sell. After a concert on St. Stephen's Green, a large park south of Grafton Street, the Second Time Arounders plan to repair to the Guinness brewery for a party, Findeison said, "and a few pints."
- Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story.
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