This month, the Lake Highlands High School Wranglers are D.C.-bound to perform for 10,000 guests at the sold-out Texas State Society’s Black Tie and Boots Inauguration Gala.
This is the third time the group has been invited to perform at the event, but a first for all of this year’s members and director Julie Maddox.
“It’s unbelievably huge,” says Maddox of the Jan. 19 event. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these kids. They may attend as an adult, but they will probably never be able to perform at an inauguration again.”
Maddox says the Wranglers – the only high school group performing at the event – were chosen because of their reputation.
“The event coordinator for the gala loved [the Wranglers] so much, we were invited back. It also helps that we are really Texas-oriented and very patriotic – we wear red, white and blue.”
The Wranglers, a 42-member country-western stunt performance group, have been preparing since August, when they received their formal invitation – which came in the form of LHHS Coach Leonard Carey dressed as Uncle Sam.
So far they’ve learned their full routine, which includes many impressive stunts and tumbling passes to the song “Boogie Back to Texas.” But getting their routine perfected isn’t all they’ve worked on – the group of juniors and seniors has been practicing social etiquette as well. That’s because after they perform, the Wranglers will stick around to teach the guests at the gala how to dance the Texas Two-Step.
To prepare for that, the students hosted a dance clinic in November, “so they will have a feel for dancing with adults in a social situation,” Maddox says.
Senior Wrangler Rachel Coughlin says she’s nervous as well as excited.
“There will be more people than we’ve ever performed for. All these famous people will be there. Lyle Lovett. There’s a chance the president will make the gala, too,” Coughlin says. “So we definitely have to make an effort to do our best and show the nation who we are.”
In addition to the gala, the Wranglers are planning a tour of the White House, a dinner with Texas House Representative Bill Keffer, and coffee with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
To pay their way, each member of the team raised money by selling car batteries through Interstate Batteries. With the dance clinic and a raffle for a parking spot, the group raised $48,000 for the trip.
“I’ve been pleased with the way the kids have been working really hard,” Maddox says. “I want them to realize how much of an honor it is to be invited to this and the fact that they are setting a legacy.”