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Harden hits career high note in 133rd Tournament of Roses Parade
Sarah Harden
Drum Major Sarah Harden of Guyton leads the Georgia State University Panther Band in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, on Jan. 1. - photo by photo submitted

RINCON — Sarah Harden is still high stepping more than a week after participating in one of America’s great New Year’s Day traditions.

Harden, a Guyton native, led the Georgia State University Panther Band in the 133rd Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.

“It was my first time going all the way to the West Coast,” Harden said during a Saturday telephone call with the Herald. “A couple years back, I went to Arizona with the band for the (Arizona Bowl) but I had never been to California. It was definitely a treat for me.”

Harden, a senior, and her fellow musicians encountered a little rain early in their week-long visit but the sunshine and beautiful weather that the Golden State is noted for eventually appeared.

“The sun hit just right,” said Harden, who returned to Georgia on Jan. 3.

The Panther Band was supposed to participate in the 2021 Tournament of Roses Parade but those plans were nixed because of COVID-19 concerns.

“They extended our invitation for this year so we had known about the trip for a couple years,” Harden said. “We’ve been preparing for it ever since then.”

Harden, daughter of the Rev. Lon and Shelia Harden, was impressed by the large crowd that lined the 5 1/2-mile parade route on Colorado Boulevard.

“There were stands on the left side and the right side full of people,” Harden said. “I don’t think I saw en empty space. There were even people who stayed (on the street) overnight (before the parade).

“I saw a family wrapped up in comforters, blankets, earmuffs, jackets and everything. They were just waiting for the parade.”

Harden said it took three hours for her 200-member band to finish the route. Its song list featured The Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin,’” the Eagles’ “Hotel California” and a medley reminiscent of old Hollywood. The slate wrapped with Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose.”

Harden, a trumpeter who served as an Effingham County Rebel Regiment drum major, said the Pasadena trip is the highlight of her musical career.

“It has to the cherry on top,” she said. “Throughout my college career, every year I have done something with the Panther Band. My freshman year, we are able to participate in the halftime show for the Super Bowl (LIII) that was in Atlanta. In my sophomore year, we went to Tucson for the bowl game. Then my junior year we were in a movie.

“As a senior, it was the Rose Parade, which is the best thing that I could have participated in.”

Harden isn’t planning a musical career. She is nearing a degree in hospitality administration.

“I plan to stay in the travel and tourism sector of it,” she said.

Harden said she wants to serve as a flight attendant for at least 10 years before moving into other hospitality areas. She will always dabble in music, however.

“I hope to be able to help out in the surrounding area of Atlanta with band camps for high schools,” she said. “They can always use help visually or with drum majors so I would really like to do that.”