CHS cheerleaders perform in London New Year's parade
A trio of Cassville High School cheerleaders celebrated the start of 2009 at a lavish New Year's Eve party in London, England.
Seniors Natalie Ward and Paige Hukill and junior Natalie Cline travelled "across the pond" to England as part of a select Universal Cheerleading Association (UCA) dance team that performed at London's New Year's Day Parade. The girls were three of only 600 young women from across the United States chosen for the honor.
Hukill, Ward and Cline earned the right to travel to London after being named UCA All-Stars following this summer's UCA Cheerleading Camp held in Cassville. Fellow CHS cheerleaders Airica Baker and Katasha Holman were also selected for the honor but the pair chose not to travel to London.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Ward. "These are memories we'll have forever."
The girls flew out of Kansas City on Dec. 26, 2008, and arrived in London the next day. The cheerleaders performed on Jan. 1 but were able to sightsee the other six days they were in London.
When asked to name their favorite sights, the girls said Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London were at the top of their list. A two-and-a-half dance cruise down the Thames River and witnessing the Changing of the Guard were also among the girls' most memorable moments.
Ward said her favorite event during the seven-day trip involved going to see a musical at the Palidome Theatre.
"We saw The Sound of Music," said Ward. "The theatre runs in my blood, and I really thought of my aunt (the late Glenda Ward) when I was sitting there."
Hukill was thrilled by something that she experienced while watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
"One of the guards nodded at me, and they're not supposed to move," said Hukill. "That was incredible."
Cline said it was the history of London that captivated her.
"It was incredible that we were touring buildings that had been there for thousands of years," said Cline. "Those places that I learned about in history class, I can now say I have actually been there. It was really amazing."
Being a cheerleader in England gave the three girls from Cassville a taste of celebrity.
"England doesn't have cheerleaders, so people were in awe of us," said Cline. "People would come up to us when we were in our uniforms and ask for a picture."
"They had a lot of respect for cheerleaders over there, which we don't always see here in the United States," added Hukill.
The girls had a chance to show off their cheerleading skills during the dance they performed 33 different times along the New Year's Day Parade route, which stretched 2.2 miles and took three and a half hours to complete.
"All three of us were front and center," said Ward.
To prepare for the parade, the girls' dance team, which included 200 to 250 performers, had only one and a half hours to practice as a group. A month before leaving on the trip, each girl was given a DVD and told to learn the dance.
"Because we didn't know our particular part, we had to learn about eight or nine different parts," said Cline. "We were delayed in Chicago for eight hours so those of us travelling out of Kansas City got out our poms and practiced in the baggage claim area. That was fun."
The New Year's Day Parade was attended by over 1 million people, and the event was broadcast internationally on the BBC.