Day 19, July 1st

Good morning, All.  Happy July!

Sam G - welcome homeThe boys are home! Last night’s homecoming festivities were fantastic. They arrived around 5:15pm in Maple Grove after a day of travel from Monticello IA.  The LOLCB “Welcome Wagon”, full of parents, friends, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and alumni, hooted and hollered at the boys’ return. With flowers in hand, the boys beamed from ear to ear. Charlie honked the horn several times to signal their arrival. He parked the bus in front of St. Joseph the Worker’s entrance, and the boys poured out to reunite with their eager and tearful parents. Every mother received a rose from their young gentleman, while dads, grandfathers, brothers, and all listened to their Choirboy’s adventures.

Dinner was served in the dining area of Aaron’s church.  Parents and boys stood in line and continued chatting about the tour. A large spread of mexican-themed food was consumed.  In the middle of dinner a sudden yell came from someone amongst the mass.  Dance music started to play, and one by one, a flashmob of Choirboy parents jigged their way on stage. As the music played and the brave few danced, more and more parents joined in. By the middle of the song, the stage was full of parents, dancing in celebration of their boy’s return.

Dinner was almost over when Aaron and the staff stood in front of the stage to present LOLCB’s yearly certificates.  Each boy’s name was called, including the amount of years they’d participated in the program. Our newbies: Sam Griepp, Cole Anderson, Keegan Wagner, Jack Bakke, Connor Vander Heyden, Gus Krueger, Tristan Wellman, Isaac Stokes, and Caleb Hall all received their first awards.  Daniel Reed was the boy with the most years under his belt: 9 years.  Later I heard he wanted to break the record with 11 years but his parents said, “No way, nine years is enough”.

Chris - ninjaThe welcome home celebration in the dining area finalized but the evening wasn’t over.  Technically the boys were still on tour and had jobs to do before the concert. Merchandise, risers, garment bags; all had to be done before the singers rehearsed and changed into their uniforms.  The concert began at 7:30pm with a full audience; everyone was agog to see and hear the performance they all imagined while the boys were away. The boys walked in, chanting and chiming. The performance had begun.  They were in their element and demonstrated their experience from being on the road.  The first half went perfectly with Joey, Braeden, and Jake reading program notes. Evan got to show off his solo during “Hush, Somebody’s Calling My Name”, and Joey accompanied Donovan and the choir for “Homeward Bound”.  The fine soloists from “Go, Down Moses” sang with pride as they concluded the first half.  Great job, Reece, Braeden, Tristan C, and Luke!

At intermission, the choir and audience enjoyed a slideshow of tour moments, which featured all eight graduates of 2016: Daniel, Ethan, Evan, Joey, Nick, Tristan W., Tristan C., and William.

Graduates - Ethan coat off“Singabahambayo” initiated the second half of the concert. Ben read more program notes and Nick sing a stellar solo for “Minnesota Morning”.  During the Q&A part of the concert, there were no Q&A’s because most of people in the audience knew most of the A’s (and really had no Q’s).  Instead, Aaron took time to thank everyone for their support, love, and trust. He also acknowledged the untiring efforts of the LOLCB staff, including the hard-working and humorously sarcastic Associate Director Corinne Olinger.  She graciously did all things on the home front while the rest were on the road.  The Homecoming Concert ended with the famous “Thank You Very Much”.  The audience stood and applauded until Aaron acquiesced to conduct an encore.  With a baton cleverly hidden in his jacket, Luke stole the show by replacing Aaron for the final “Z” of “The Alphabet Song”.  LOLCB’s concert choir concluded their 2016 Homecoming concert! Families and friends cheered.  Boys smiled.

The evening continued with a recognition of the 2016 Graduates and their families;  and ended with the much anticipated End of Tour Awards ceremony.  Donovan won the Most Musical Award, and Nick received the Most Improved Award.  The Choirboy of the Year Award was given to…”drum roll, please”…Mr. Ethan Rud.  He was so surprised when Aaron handed him the trophy.  Both Joey and William congratulated him.

Yet with all the excitement, tour still wasn’t done.  The boys needed to change, and grab their luggage from the bus.  There was no need to introduce them to their host families.  They knew exactly who was taking them home…permanently.  Tour 2016 was officially done.

Before I end the blog, I wanted to include a few things.

FINAL INTERVIEW!  Head Chorister Joey and Assistant Head Chorister William were the final graduates to interview on tour.  I wanted to save the best for last.

  • William - drivingWhat is your happiest memory of tour? Funniest thing that happened on tour?
    • Joey- Receiving the Most Musical Award.
    • William – swimming in the ocean; stealing Joey’s shoes and socks in Dungeons & Dragons.
  • What’s it like being a Choirboy?
    • J – It’s fun with a couple stressful moments.
    • W – It’s pretty fun.
  • One word to describe you.
    • J – Emotional
    • W – Funny
  • What advice would you give to next year’s Choirboys?
    •  J – Practice at home.
    • W – Don’t be dumb.
  • What do you like to do for fun on the bus?
    • J – Read
    • W – D&D
  • Joey - busWhat do you love most about your tour partner?
    • J – He helps me keep another perspective.
    • W – He’s kind of mellow.
  • What’s the nicest thing you did for someone on tour?
    • J – Comforted a boy who was home sick.
    • W – Tried to make sure people felt included.
  • Name two things we should on tour next year?
    • J – More boy-driven activities, upgrade the game chest.
    • W – More free time, more group activities in pool.

Thanks, Joey and William.  You two were amazing on tour.  Both of you grew so much through your time with LOLCB.  You demonstrated great leadership, and we are very PROUD of you!

 

How many of you have seen Jeff Foxworthy from his stand-up in “The Blue Collar Tour”?  I piggy-backed off his bit “You know you’re a redneck when…”.  I asked the boys to contribute the punchlines.
YOU KNOW YOU’RE A CHOIRBOY WHEN…

  • …you break out into a random musical number.
  • …you forget your iPod and stare out a window for 8 hours straight.
  • …you randomly correct people on “Yeah” or “Nope”.
  • …you’re in the middle of nowhere, there’s no AC on bus, sticking cards to your chest.
  • …you’re in the middle of the city and you break out into 15 songs.
  • Louis - laughin…your prefect confiscates your shoes.
  • …the bus starts to feel more comfortable during rest periods.
  • …you wake up on Saturday mornings.
  • …you start humming “Thank You Very Much” in the middle of school.
  • …you go on tour and at least one person is “broken”.
  • …you sing along to songs on the radio involuntarily.
  • …you start dancing crazy to a song.
  • …you get used to tour and really really love music.
  • …you go to choir and you’re a boy.
  • …your voice is higher than most people in your school.
  • …you start dancing on stage.
  • …you make random jokes that make no sense.
  • …three tours later you have a book full of written lines.
  • …you graduate at 14.
  • …all you’ve had is fast food and pancakes for 18 days.
  • …you have a Choirboy hat.
  • …you wiggle on stage like your Head Chorister.
  • …you travel with music, and you love music.
  • …your “Mom” is a guy, and your “Uncle” is a whale.
  • …you write a paragraph with the same amount of lines as your age.
  • …you hang out with “broken” people.
  • …you always talk to a “Tristan”.

FINAL THOUGHTS. Thank you all for reading this blog.  It’s been my pleasure to write it every day for you.  All of the boys are amazing, and I feel so happy to be part of their lives.  If you’re a parent…thanks for letting us take care of your boys for 18 days.  If you were a host family… thank you for taking care of our boys, and supporting our organization.  If you hosted a concert…thank you for providing food, being generous in your givings, and giving the boys a venue to shine.  For everyone else…you support a great organization.  These boys learn about music, which we know is of extreme value to them and to their communities.  They also learn to be great citizens of our world.   It’s easy to be an ordinary boy: wild, dirty, energetic; but it’s a feat to be an ORDINARY BOY DOING EXTRAORDINARY THINGS.  The organization of Land of Lakes Choirboys will continually expect the boys of our program to do things that are uncommon: demonstrate great MUSICal skill, be HONORable, and show genuine RESPECT.

Thanks for reading. Good day!

Day 17, June 29th

    Good Evening.  One more day to go.

Gus - bus yeahThe boys gathered at Windsor Heights Lutheran this morning to pack their suitcases and their lunches.  Mrs. Sletto had a spread of sandwich fixin’s all ready for them when they arrived.  When they all got their lunches made, we started our trek to Monticello IA.
Dono - chipsAt noon, we stopped at a park in Anamosa IA.  It was a beautiful park right off the river.  The weather was very pleasant, and there was plenty of green space for the boys to eat their lunches.  Ss. Peter and Paul Lutheran church was only 20 minutes away so the boys had time to spare.  Stewart led a group in Ultimate Frisbee while a few boys played a game they made up: “Sports Ball”.  I’m not sure what it was about, but it included stealing each other’s hats.  They seemed to enjoy it.

Jack, Luke, GusWe arrived at Ss. Peter and Paul Lutheran church around 4:30pm.  The church is quaintly set in the country in a township near Monticello.  The boys removed their garment bags from the bus, and rehearsed for awhile before dinner.  Tonight they got to sing “Go Down Moses” which they had been waiting to perform since the beginning of tour. Joey also got to accompany Donovan and the boys for “Homeward Bound”. For intermission, Sam Griepp and Donovan replaced Joey on the piano. They all were so excited to get a chance to perform in a different manner.   Over all, the boys did very well tonight.  The good people of Ss. Peter and Paul gave them a standing ovation.  This time the boys thanked the audience by singing “The Alphabet Song”. This is the first time they’ve been able to sing it.

Tristan W - shaking handsWith their last concert away from home behind them, the boys are now ready to sing for all of you in Minnesota. They’re getting a good night’s rest with their host families tonight, and will be heading north tomorrow morning.  Parents, family, and friends will all be at Maple Grove’s St. Joseph the Worker Catholic church to greet them. The concert is at 7:30pm, and we hope to see you all there.

Thanks for reading. Good night.

 

Day 16, June 28th

Good evening!

Sam A - busThe boys got up bright and early this morning. We traveled to Des Moines and the ride was roughly 6 hours. Isaac told us right away when we got on the road, “I’m going to nap in my seat.  I’ll probably snore.  Snoring is a manly thing”.  He certainly did sleep, and so did several boys.  Six Flags was fun, and the boys were feeling it this morning.  Luckily they had a long trip to catch a few significant z’s.

Reece was our Officer of the Day. His Quote of the Day was unsolicited by no one what so ever, “Stewart is Awesome”.  Unfortunately he’s was coerced by someone in particular to choose his Word of the Day: “Stewart”.  Despite all the influence in the first few seats, Reece was unwavering in his choice for Song of the Day: “Uptown Funk.” The boys got funky in the bus for at least 5 minutes.

Alex - lunchWe stopped by McDonald’s for lunch. This was the first time we needed to eat at a fast food establishment.  We considered it a success that we hadn’t eaten fast food until the 16th day of tour.

Tristan S - clinicCharlie and Camden guided us safely to Windsor Heights Lutheran church in Des Moines.  We stepped in the doors around 3:30pm, and were greeted by Barbara Sletto, the Artistic Director of the Heartland Youth Choir.  The boys spent some time with her learning a couple rounds they were to sing with her choir.  She also spent some time listening to the boys sing “Saints Bound for Heaven”, and she gave great feedback.  She was energetic and fun, and was an excellent clinician for them.

A make-your-own-sandwich dinner was provided in the Fellowship hall before the performance.  Members of both choirs sat together to get to know each other.  Our generous host also provided cupcakes to celebrate Reece’s 11th birthday.   All the choirs joined together to sing “Happy Birthday” to him, and “as is the tradition of the Land of Lakes Choirboys”, Reece sang “Happy Birthday” to himself.

Group - before concert #3The concert started at 7pm, and the Heartland Youth Choir opened the event with a few of their wonderful songs.  The boys joined them for the two new pieces they learned this afternoon, and then finished the evening with a shorter version of their tour repertoire.  Aaron said they sang very well.  It’s Day 16, and they’re on top of their game.

Every night of tour the staff stays in a hotel while the boys join their host families.  Tonight was different in that the officers got to stay in the hotel as well.  Stewart and Camden spent time with the choir leadership, swimming, talking, and enjoying late night snacks.  The officers were so happy to get some time with them.

Before the evening ended, I also got a chance to interview Graduates Ethan Rud and Nick Burnett Carlisle.

  • What is your happiest memory of tour? Funniest thing that happened on tour?
    • Ethan – Alaska, seeing the reactions of the first time flyers to Alaska.
    • Nick – at Camp playing Gaga ball with Stewart and David Boyum.
  • What’s it like being a Choirboy?
    • ER – Better than school; hanging out with the guys; bittersweet especially on tour: you get some stuff, you lose some stuff.
    • NBC -You get tons of opportunities, lots of skills as an adult, you get to be doing something you love.
  • One word to describe you would be?
    • ER – Sarcastic
    • NBC -Competitive
  • Ethan and NickWhat advice would you give to next year’s Choirboys?
    • ER – Make others happy and they will strive to make you happy.
    • NBC -Worry about others, not yourself.
  • What do you like to do for fun on the bus?
    • ER – Make fun of Joey
    • NBC -Sleep
  • What do you love most about your tour partner?
    • ER – He’s a big dude but he’s knows he’s a big dude and that’s what makes him nice.
    • NBC -He’s calm.
  • What’s the nicest thing you did for someone on tour?
    • ER – I seem to be the “divider” between two people in an argument.
    • NBC -Sat and talked to one of the new boys.
  • Name two things we should on tour next year?
    • ER – Have a bigger party for the graduates, spend more time with Host homes
    • NBC -Spend more time with Host homes, go swimming more

Daniel with Aunt and UncleTomorrow we leave for Monticello IA to perform at Ss Peter and Paul Lutheran church. It’s the boys’ last performance before Homecoming.  They’re getting excited to see everyone at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in Maple Grove.  Please be sure to come see them for their final concert of the season.

Goodnight.

Day 15, June 27th

Good evening.

Today we traveled to Eureka, MO have to some fun at Six Flags – St. Louis. The boys woke up early and had their breakfast.  The bus loaders and room crew got their jobs done, and we all were out the door around 8:15am.  Daniel was our Officer of the Day.  His Quote of the Day was “Remember everything is temporary”.  Temporary must have been his theme throughout tour because that was his Word of the Day. He wanted everyone to listen to ACDC’s “Back in Black”.  I’m sure you saw the video on Facebook this morning.

Ben - busWhile we were traveling Aaron told me we achieved his tour goal of 1,300 Likes on Facebook.  I wanted to thank you all for contributing to that goal.  The more you share our blog, photos, etc, the more people learn about the boys and our valuable program.

For a few days Chris had been slacking on his Bus Trivia, but today he got back into the groove.  His questions were really interesting, but not very hard for the boys. 1) What does the Roman numeral C represent? 2) What’s the highest mountain in Africa? 3) What language has the most words?

Cole, JakeWe stopped by Cracker Barrel for lunch this afternoon because not a lot of the boys had EVER been there before.  The staff was pleased to hear some of them actually chose foods they normally do get. Luke and Reece tried grits. They said they were pretty good.  Sam Griepp was delighted to hear that you could actually order pancakes for lunch, and Joey and Braeden CHOSE to order salads.  Even in the 15th day of tour these boys still surprise us.

After lunch, we had some time to finish the third installment of  “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi”.  I used that time to interview two of the three “Tristans”: Tristan Wellman & Tristan Christiaasen.

  1. What is your happiest memory of tour? Funniest thing that happened on tour?
    1. Tristan Wellman- playing kickball and winning.
    2. Tristan Christaansen – swimming in the ocean for the first time; tripped and fell on stage during “My Girl”
  2. Tristan CWhat’s it like being a Choirboy?
    1. TW – It’s fun. Teaches you how to act like a gentleman
    2. TC – Being in a choir and being a boy. (Smart Alec)
  3. One word to describe you would be?
    1. TW – Passionate
    2. TC – Stubborn
  4. What advice would you give to next year’s Choirboys?
    1. TW – Do the things your officers tell you to do, they’re more experienced.
    2. TC – Listen to more experienced people. Don’t just act on your gut feeling.
  5. What do you like to do for fun on the bus?.
    1. TW – Play poker, Texas hold ’em
    2. TC – Play cards and devices
  6. What do you love most about your tour partner? What’s annoying about him?
    1. TW – How he showed me the ropes. Annoying – pulls pranks on me.
    2. TC – He’s lot like me. Annoying – he’s lot of like me.
  7. Tristan W - Batman capeWhat’s the nicest thing you did for someone on tour?
    1. TW – Raised someone’s spirits because they were feeling down
    2. TC – Helping someone with their tour job when other people weren’t.
  8. Name two things we should on tour next year?
    1. TW – Swim more, have longer time at rest stops to play games like Ultimate
    2. TC – Do more group games, get rid of garment racks
  9. What’s the grossest thing you can think of?
    1. TW – Jabba the Hut
    2. TC – Milkshake, add dirt and leaves, shake it up, eat it, throw it up then eat it again. (Yeah, that’s bit gross)

Jake, EvanAround 2pm, we got to the mostly anticipated destination of all tour: Six Flags – St. Louis.  The boys were so excited to get on the rides.  Lightly coated with sunscreen and hydrated, the boys split into two groups to do extraordinary things in the world famous amusement park. Stewart and Camden took half of them for the extreme rides: Batman, the Ninja, and Mr. Freeze.  The other half went with Aaron and me to the less extreme rides. A roller-coaster called “Screamin’ Eagle” was popular. It was a hot day in Eureka MO so they also found the water rides particularly refreshing. I’d like to give props to both Evan and Nick for conquering their fears of roller-coasters today.  It was a wonderful experience being part of their courageous endeavor. At the end of 4 hours in the park, the boys bought their souvenirs, well-spent from the days excitement.  We checked into the hotel in Washington MO, and had pizza for dinner.

Tomorrow is another early morning.  They travel to Windsor Heights IA to sing with the Heartland Youth Choir.  It’s a long trip, even longer than this morning’s trek.

Thank you for reading. See you all in a few days. Goodnight.

Day 14, June 26th

Good evening.

Group with MelanieLuke - mid morning b'fastThis morning the boys sang at All Saints Episcopal Church in Birmingham, AL.  Melanie Couch, the Director of Music, took very good care of the boys.  With her help, the boys knew how to follow along in their service bulletins, and they had a great mid-morning breakfast of fruit, cheese, and granola before their 11am appearance.  I got to sit with one of the host families for the 8:45 service. They hosted seven of the boys last night, and thoroughly enjoyed having the boys share the evening with their own three kids.  Earlier that morning, another host told me that her 13 year old son was glad to play video games with boys his age.

Tristan C - avoidingWe all had lunch at the church, and then started our way to Memphis.  Sam Griepp was Officer of the Day today: “Always try to do your best”.  His Word of the Day was “Responsibility”, and he wanted the boys to listen to a song they’ve been singing for every concert, “Homeward Bound”.  I had a fresh recording from their concert in Macon, GA.

Ethan - mailRest period was spent watching “Stars Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes”.  The 2nd installment of Stewart’s most favorite movie distracted them for most of the trip; so much that they didn’t even notice Charlie driving through a spot of heavy rain.  It cleared up when we entered Mississippi, and by that time the movie had finished.  Stewart handed out letters.  Isaac, I think, is now up to 47 swirlies.

For these final days of tour I thought I’d spend some time interviewing the graduating gentlemen.  Daniel and Evan were happy to start the series.

  • What is your happiest memory of tour? Funniest thing that happened on tour?

    • Daniel – Mammoth Cave. When Evan became the new “soft, comfortable one”. He took the place of “soft, comfortable” William from last year’s tour.
    • Evan – playing D&D in the back. Joey’s character beating up everyone’s as soon as he entered the game
  • What’s it like being a Choirboy? a gentleman?
    • I can’t remember not being a Choirboy. I’ve been one most of my life.
    • Lots of singing.  It takes up a lot of time but it’s worth it.
  • Daniel and Evan - finger gunsOne word to describe you
    • Loyal
    • Geek
  • What advice would you give to next year’s Choirboys?
    • Listen, realize most things are temporary.
    • Don’t get in trouble. Simple as that. You will regret it.
  • What do you like to do for fun on the bus?

    • Enjoy D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) in the back
    • PlayD&D.
  • What do you love most about your tour partner? dislike the most?
    • He’s funny.  He’s annoying sometimes.
    • Fun. He punches me a lot.
  • What’s the nicest thing you did for someone on tour?
    • Help them make characters in D&D.  It takes two hours to make one.
    • I help my sisters with almost everything (not tour)
  • Name two things we should on tour next year?
    • Go to the northeast, New York
    • Go to Canada, New York City again
  • What’s the grossest thing you can think of?
    • Putting a toothpick under your toe nail and kicking a wall.
    • Eating a hard boiled rotten egg.

Braeden, ColeWe had dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse tonight.  The boys had some time before being seated so they all started playing a game called “Ninja”.  Even Stewart and Camden played.  Right before they were called into the restaurant, they sang for a lady who was sitting outside waiting for her table.  She was so very grateful, and wouldn’t stop raving about them all night.

The evening ended with a couple stories from Aaron, and the boys voted for Choirboy of the Year. They’re all in their rooms, getting prepared for the long trip to St. Louis tomorrow.  It’s Six Flags day.  They’re in for a big treat.

Thanks for reading, y’all.  Goodnight.

Day 13, June 25th

Good evening, y’all.  

Reece, Braeden - breakfastThis morning we left the hotel for the National Civil War Naval Museum right in Columbus.  Four massive Naval cannons were on display right outside the museum.  The boys gathered there before Jeff, the Director of Education and History, greeted us at the front doors.  We gladly left the sticky 75º  morning weather for air conditioned comfort.

Group - Naval MuseumJeff brought the boys down to the first exhibit which was a large triple-paneled mural depicting the three categories of naval vehicles: Blue, Green, and Brown Water. The boys were very interested. There were a few in particular who found special interest in all they were seeing.  Jeff described several watercrafts and showed the boys items of naval interest: an axe, a cutlass, and a musket.  The hour and a half long tour continued on to exhibits such as the famous iron-clad vessel CSS Jackson, the nation’s largest collection of Civil War Naval-related flags, the USS Hartford, and the USS Monitor.  The boys were very engaged the whole time.  At the end of our visit, Jeff mentioned to Aaron he was impressed with how well the boys maintained their attentiveness throughout the whole tour.  It’s very rare.

Gus, Alex - busNick, EthanThe gift shop provided many souvenirs to purchase, and soon after shopping the boys were back on the bus.  Tristan Wellman was the Officer of the Day, gave the boys some words of wisdom: “If you have fun, you won.”  Thusly, “Fun” was his Word of the Day, and he had Camden play “Danger Zone” for his Song of the Day.

Keegan - lunchLunch was at Cici’s Pizza in Columbus, and we traveled onward to Birmingham AL.  For rest period, they finally got to watch “Stars Wars: Episode IV”. The boys (and Stewart) were very pleased.  The drive to Birmingham was roughly 3 hours, and we arrived at All Saints Episcopal Church around 5:15pm; we crossed into Central Time Zone earlier that day. There was no concert tonight. The boys only had to meet their host families and spend the night hanging out with them.  Tomorrow they sing for All Saints services, and then have a long travel day to Memphis.

Thanks for reading.  Goodnight.

 

Day 12, June 24th

Good evening from Columbus, GA.

Caleb - goodbyeThe boys came from their host homes this morning, warm and well-loved.  St. James Episcopal really took good care of them.  It was another hot day in Florida; even the natives were saying it was too hot.  To help, Charlie parked the bus in the shade.  It was a wise move because today was a good day for the boys to switch seats with their our partners.  They had to spend a bit more time outside for that.  Switching seats is something we do around the middle of every tour.  It changes the scenery a bit for them.

William - letterToday Keegan Wagner was the Officer of the Day. He encouraged the boys with “If you have hope and faith you can do lots.” He selected “Hope” as the Word of the Day, and played “The Final Countdown” for his Song of the Day.  Stewart took some time to ask the gentlemen about their host homes.  Evan and Daniel stayed with two dogs, a parrot, and “a cat that looked like Grumpy Cat”.  The parrot was a favorite of theirs.  It liked to say “Good morning”, and “Want some coffee?”.  Our two jesters taught it to say “E-Luhman-ati” by the time they left this morning.  Caleb was at a host home that owned a plane, and  Cole got to drink astronaut drinks. Gus played pool, and Luke and Joey received personal chocolate muffins and kisses (not the Hersey’s kind).  Luke loved the kisses.  After host home stories, Stewart handed out letters.  Tristan C. and Roman led everyone in Bus Bingo until we got to a park in Sylvester, GA.

Sam A - huddleIt was a great place to eat the lunches packed by St. James’ parishioners. Although it was gnat-sty, the boys enjoyed the swings, a playground, and a huge green space for ultimate frisbee.  We were there for about an hour then started again for Columbus.

Joey - dinnerRest period lasted for a couple hours. The boys needed their rest.  Last night’s concert was great but, from the director’s perspective, they were below their normal level of energy.  Thus an extended rest period was very called for.

We arrived in Columbus at a brand new Best Western.  Dinner was at a local restaurant called B. Merrell’s.  The wait staff was excellent and let the boys sing after they ate.
IMG_0900We capped off the night with pool time. Stewart, Camden, Joseph, and I joined them.  Needless to say there were plenty of chicken fights, attempts to dunk the staff, and a conga line.  There were two little non-Choirboy gentlemen swimming with us as well.  They joined in some of the fun.

Tomorrow we travel to Birmingham AL, but stop by the National Civil War Naval Museum here in Columbus before our three hour trip.  They boys will not perform tomorrow.  They will meet their host families at All Saint Episcopal Church in Birmingham.

Thanks again for reading.  Goodnight.     

Day 11, June 23rd

Connor - host dadChoirboys - paperThe boys arrived at the bus in the sweltering Florida sun.  It wasn’t too bad in the shade but the moment you stepped into the light it was H.O.T!  Nevertheless they were in good spirits.  They got to spend two nights with their host families and formed great bonds.  On the bus ride to Clearwater, Stewart asked the boys about their host homes.  One threesome got to do a photo shoot on the host’s motorcycles, instead of “wild hogs” they were labeled “wild boys”.  The boys told all about how their host family spoke spanish, how they watched Harry Potter, and how they played with the host’s three year old son.  They really liked his toys.  Some boys actually got into a Nerf gun fight with their host family.  After their stories, Cole brought to the front of the bus a newspaper with the Choirboys on the front page.  Resurrection Catholic did a really great job spreading the word about Tuesday’s concert.  This was the same church that interviewed Aaron and Sam Anderson earlier on tour. Sam’s interview was in the paper.  On the mic, Aaron announced to the boys that they made the front page of Lakeland’s paper, and someone called out “We’re famous.”

Jake - stingrayWe arrived at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium around 10am, and enjoyed an arRAY of exhibits and presentations.  The boys got to see Winter, the star of “Dolphin Tale”, and touched stingrays and sea urchins.  The aquarium had sea otters, sea turtles, and pelicans on display as well.  It was around noon when they were all finished with their visit.

Louis - busThe bus ride to Lake City was short.  Stewart took some time though to play poker with the boys in the back. Reece wanted me to make sure I wrote in the blog “Stewart owned us in poker”.  Jake was the Officer of the Day today.  “You can do anything or be anything if you try” was his Quote of the Day.  His Word of the Day was “Belief”, and he chose “Fireflies” as his Song of the Day. Several boys sang along.

Sam G - dinnerWe made it to St. James Episcopal Church around 4:30pm, and the boys went straight to their tour jobs.  The kind people of St. James grilled burgers for the boys, complete with potato salad and a delicious orange marshmallow fluff.  They also got watermelon which is extremely tasty down in the South. Ben really liked the burgers, “It’s like heaven between two buns”.

Group - concertTonight’s concert went well.  The Q&A time is always interesting.  It’s fun to hear the questions from the audience and the answers from the boys.  Tonight someone asked “What made the first year guys decide to join the choir?”  Tristan Wellman got to tell his story.  He had gone to an LOLCB Day Camp a few years ago, but it wasn’t good timing for him.  He later was asked again by his schoolmate Ethan Rud to join.  That’s when he took the big step and joined.  Another person asked, “Are any of you  worried about that moment when you wake up and you can no longer hit that hight note?”.  Several older boys raised their hands.  The final question was a fun one, “Who’s the biggest prankster?”  ALL the boys slowly turned their heads to Chris Hess. 😉

Isaac - hostAfter the concert, everyone went to the Fellowship Hall to have some cake and cookies.  The boys met their host families and are now home with them. One lady stopped by my table and raved about our program and how much she loves the boys.  People see good things come out of them: their manners, their singing, their maturity.  She was happy to hear there are programs like ours in our world.

Tomorrow we start heading north.  Our next stop is Columbus, GA which is only a hotel stop.  The next day the boys get to visit the National Civil War Naval Museum and make their way to Birmingham, AL.

I hope you all enjoyed the Facebook Live video tonight.  I’m sure you are now looking forward to hearing the rest of the concert on the 30th.  You won’t be disappointed.

Goodnight.

Day 10, June 22nd

imageThis morning was an early morning for the boys. Many of them went to bed late last night. Their bedtime was up to their own discretion. Today was scheduled to be a lighter day with the Clearwater Threshers game and a short concert at Savannah Court Assisted Living back in Lakeland.

imageThe good people of Resurrection provided a great breakfast for the boys. We all gathered in a part of the school called the Shiedy Center for the meal. Plates of Krispy Kreme donuts were on each table. Cereal, eggs, biscuits and sausage were served with orange juice, apple juice and milk.

imageWe didn’t have to leave for the Threshers’ game until 9:30am so the bus crew cleaned the bus while the rest of the boys checked their garment bags. Stewart also started the process of selecting Choirboy of the Year. Today was a perfect day for nominations. As you saw on Facebook, Aaron also led the boys in his 7-minute ab workout. Right before we left for the Threshers’ game our young gentlemen started a game of Four Corners.

imageIt took a little over an hour to get the Clearwater. The Clearwater Threshers are a minor league baseball team who play at a stadium called Bright House Park. The boys got there with time to spare. It was a relaxed day at the park. The sun was out, and the boys were sunscreened. At first we all gathered on a “grassy berm”, and then the boys in their red tour shirts spread out amongst the stadium. Some immediately found shade. Others dared to stay out in the sun in hopes to catch a foul ball. Several of them in fact did. Even Cole got a t-shirt shot from a cannon. Donovan and Sam Anderson had their five seconds of fame on the “Smile-Cam”.

imageThe Threshers ended the game with a win against the Lakeland Flying Tigers, and the boys were off to dinner, and a performance.  Back in Lakeland, we found a Cracker Barrel for them (because none of them had ever been there before). They again enjoyed Stewart’s Root Beer, and learned how to conquer the infamous and difficult Triangle Peg Board Game.

Tonight’s performance was one of the sweetest moments of tour. Most of the time the gentlemen sing in church sanctuaries, but tonight they sang in the dining room of a senior assisted living facility. There were a handful of residents there to enjoy the boys’ strong and resonant sound. Everyone smiled, and you could tell they were thoroughly enjoying every musical moment. These ordinary, baseball-loving boys did another extraordinary, soul-touching thing today. The residents of Savannah Court Assisted Living knew that all too well.

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Tonight they’re back with their host families, hopefully doing laundry and enjoying another evening with some very loving and generous people.

Tomorrow, they’ll spend time at the Clearwater Aquarium and hopefully meet the real life dolphin “Winter” from the movie “Dolphin Tale”. They’ll also head to Lake City FL to sing for the people of St. James Episcopal Church.

Goodnight.

Day 9, June 21st

Nine days down. Nine to go.  Cocoa Beach is behind us, and we’re moving on to the second half of tour.  Breakfast was served at the hotel, and we were off to Jungle Adventures and Lakeland FL. On the bus ride our Officer of the Day  Cole served his duties.  His Quote of the Day was “The die is cast”, and his Word of the Day was “Try”.  The boys enjoyed his appropriately selected Song of the Day “The Eye of the Tiger”.

Group - bear cageWe arrived at Jungle Adventures around noon, and were greeted by a ginormous gator mouth.  Megan and Donna from the JA staff welcomed the boys.  They got to hold a baby American alligator, a ball snake, and a tarantuala.  You should’ve heard the ‘gasp’ when Megan came in the room with the tarantula.  The last animal they got to touch was Theo, a copper and white colored skunk with “fur like a cat”.  He didn’t stink.  The foxes did though.

Alex - baby gatorMegan fed a few of the 150 alligators of the park. The boys watched as she threw raw meat directly in front of their round snouts.  When the gators finished their lunch, we had ours, NOT raw meat.  Donna, the other staff member, took us on a tour of the premise. She introduced us to Boris and Natasha, two Florida Black Bears.  The boys got to feed them food pellets through a tube in their cage.  Donna continued the tour, showing off all the cool animals of Jungle Adventures: fox (the stinky ones), deer, blue and gold macaws, turtles, alligators of all sizes, lemurs, and a feisty macaque who entertained Joseph by attacking his own tail.  “I’ve never seen Joseph laugh like that”, Stewart said.

Roman - tarantulaDonna concluded her tour, and Reptile Ryan took over.  He gave us a pontoon ride around the duckgrass-filled swamp surrounding the refuge, and showed the boys where the gators sunbathed.  They saw a hand full of them on the shoreline, and met JA’s largest alligator Goliath.

The boys spent some time in the gift shop purchasing alligator heads and what-not.  Moms, be prepared for this. Our adventure in the jungle ended, and we were off to Lakeland FL.  In Lakeland, the boy were served a delicious dinner of burgers and chips.  They changed into their concert uniform, and prepared for rehearsal. When they arrived in the sanctuary, there were people already waiting in the lobby.  I was amazed by how many people were there so early.  While the boys rehearsed, the lobby filled with eager listeners.  They were almost bursting at the seams. Finally the doors opened around 6:40pm, and the sanctuary started to fill with the largest audience the boys have seen so far on tour.  It was impressive.

Tristan S - chattinThe people in Resurrection Catholic church adored the boys.  They were a very responsive and enthusiastic crowd.  You could feel the joy they felt, listening to the boys. At Q&A time, they asked lots of questions. “How do you keep from getting home sick?” I gotta say Jack comes up with the best things. “I wait for the next day.  If something fun is happening, I don’t even think of [home].” Someone asked about the different “levels” of sopranos, and Aaron had the Sop 1’s demonstrate how high they could sing.  Everyone was in awe.

Group - ice cream trough (1)After the concert, the boys did their tour jobs and met their host families.  Check out the epic sundae they got tonight!

They’ll be spending the next two nights with their families.  Tomorrow is the Threshers game in Clearwater, and they sing for the Savannah Court Assisted Living at 7pm. Wish them fun.

Goodnight.Daniel - dinner, finger gun