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Amsterdam marching band lights up the holiday skies

Amsterdam marching band lights up the holiday skies

Visitors can take a trip down the Yellow Brick Road into the Land of Oz during this year’s Light Up

Visitors can take a trip down the Yellow Brick Road into the Land of Oz during this year’s Light Up the Sky with the AHS Marching Rams holiday light show.

Light Up the Sky

WHERE: 154 Brookside Ave., Amsterdam

WHEN: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. nightly through Dec. 23

HOW MUCH: $5 per car

Now in its 13th year, the show is the main fundraiser for the Amsterdam High School student marching band, which includes a color guard and majorettes. The show is open daily from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. through Dec. 23. Admission is $5 per vehicle. Proceeds are used to cover travel expenses for the band.

“It is more than just a light show; it is a production,” said Linda A. Selbert, light show co-chairwoman. “It is something positive. It gives something back to the community and gives a lot of support to the band.”

The show features more than 400 displays, thousands of lights and marching band students dressed as cartoon characters. The characters dance for visitors who beep their vehicle horns. Approximately 18 to 20 students participate each night, supervised by a dozen or more adults.

Steven Gray, 17, a trumpet player and member of the Marching Rams for the last four years, said the show brings the community together. “Families come there in their cars, and the kids love to laugh at us when we dance for them,” he said.

“It is a happy laugh,” he added.

As a volunteer, Gray will dress as any character needed that night for the show. His favorite, however, is the penguin. “I can breathe in that one,” he explained.

Depending on the weather, students will stay in character outside for an hour or so. “Then we can go inside for hot chocolate and cookies,” he said.

Abbey Tambasco, 17, who plays alto saxophone in the band, remembers driving through the show when she was younger. “And actually working it now is pretty cool,” she said.

Her favorite character to play in the show is the candy cane bear. “I like passing out candy canes when the cars come through. I also like setup day, when all the band members wrap lights around the trees,” she said.

The Wizard of Oz display is new this year, part of an effort to keep the show fresh, said Steven’s mother, Susi Gray, president of the AHS Marching Rams Booster Club and light show co-chairwoman. “We add every year. We say, ‘Don’t forget to come back next year because we add to it,’ ” she said.

The Wizard of Oz display features a wooden model of the famous Yellow Brick Road sitting on the grass and illuminated by floodlights. On the road are life-sized wooden renditions of the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow, all hand-painted. Dorothy is featured in a nearby display, sitting on the stoop of her house. Also featured are the Flying Monkeys and Munchkins. “It is a good-size piece,” Gray said.

The show also features displays of M&Ms candies dressed in Marching Rams outfits. “It is really cute,” she said.

There are also angels, characters from “Toy Story,” Minnie and Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, characters from “The Jetsons” and “The Flintstones,” plus more. In addition, it includes historic buildings from Amsterdam’s past, such as a Native American longhouse.

Organizers collect donations for the Toys for Tots drive and Catholic Charities food pantries each night.

A group of 50 to 75 volunteers began putting up displays in October, taking about three weekends to complete the job. The lights remain strung all year long.

Last year, the event raised $17,000 for the Marching Rams, the best year ever, Gray said. The band used the money to march in New York City this fall. Last year, they used the money to march at the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Georgia.

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