Ryan Littlejohn wanted to say thank you Wednesday for a trip he took, and the opportunity to play as part of a pair of marching bands.
"It was one of probably the best two weeks of my life," Littlejohn told members of the Newton Lions Club.
Littlejohn is a junior in high school, and he was selected for the Kansas Lions International Band to play French horn. That selection also led to his being part of a select group of 46 students who marched in a parade during the Lions International Convention in Chicago.
The Kansas band practiced at Friends University in Wichita, marching under the direction of directors from across the state to get the band ready.
"We marched 15 miles in three days," Littlejohn said. "That paid off for when we went to Chicago."
The Kansas band was made up of 600 members. The band was split into a pair of different bands for rehearsals before a performance in Wichita.
"It was one of the most amazing sounds you have ever heard," Littlejohn said. "We played 'A Memorial to JFK.' It was really moving. A lot of people were moved by that. It brought me to tears playing it because it was so powerful. Even though we don't remember that, it still meant something to us because we learned about this in history."
The International band was in Chicago June 30 to July 5, marching in a parade to celebrate the 100th year of Lions Club International.
"We met people from all around the world," Littlejohn said. "We would be standing in a parade block, and they would come up and take a random photo with you. ... Lions from Taiwan had five or six groups of 250 people. There were lots and lots of people. ... That was the coolest thing, you got to interact with people from all over the world."
For the parade, Littlejohn switched from French horn to a bass drum.
The day after marching in the one-mile parade, the band marched again at the Lincoln Park Zoo.
"We played five or six songs plus our parade tunes," Littlejohn said. "We had a parade tune called 'Oz.' It is a mixture of all the Wizard of Oz tunes into one tune."
The band was also able to do some sightseeing, seeing the Chicago Skydeck, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Navy pier and the John G. Shedd Aquarium.
His trip was sponsored by the Newton Lions Club.