It’s a bit early to start making New Year’s Eve plans, unless you’re in charge of a marching band taking its first international trip. In nine months, the University of Northern Iowa Panther Marching Band will be playing in London, England, in that city’s New Year’s Day Parade.

The Lord Mayor of the city of Westminster, Councillor Duncan Sandys, was in Cedar Falls on Wednesday to make the invitation official. “We have scouts who go out and about and look for bands, listen to bands, watch them perform in competitions and they’re one of the best and we want them to come to London,” Sandys says. “We’re delighted they’ve accepted the invitation.”

Sandys, who is the great grandson of the late Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, says the New Year’s Day Parade has grown to be a very popular event. “Originally, before the parade took place, there was no big celebration of the new year and the parade now is one of the biggest events that takes place in London,” Sandys says. “We have eight-and-a-half thousand participants that take part in the parade and everybody just has a wonderful time.”

UNI’s band director Danny Galyen says it will be an adventure. “This is really exciting for us,” Galyen says. “It’ll be our first time performing internationally and to receive an invitation to perform at the 29th London New Year’s Day parade is really a special honor for us and our students.” Galyen says this has been in the works for about a year already.

The band will be in London from December 27th through January 3rd.

(Reporting by Scott Fenzloff, KCNZ, Cedar Falls)