TALLADEGA, Ala. – The normally quiet city of Talladega and Talladega College have been the epicenter of controversy and political news stories over the last month following the college’s decision to let its band play in the inauguration of President-elect Donald J. Trump this upcoming Friday.

But at noon Wednesday the mood was different.

The city seemed to be filled with joy as hundreds of people from the community came out to Court Square to partake in the City’s send-off celebration for the Talladega College Great Tornado Band, and Mayor Jerry Cooper said he expected nothing less.

“People are very excited about this, and the citizens of Talladega are very happy. I think the backlash that you hear is not from Talladega, Sylacauga, or any of the surrounding areas,” said Cooper. “I think it’s just from the bigger cities, and they need to put that to rest. Our kids are going, they’re going to have a good time and I am just so proud of them.”

Six charter buses arrived to Court Square just after noon. Applause and cheers rang out from those in the crowd, and the cheers got even louder as the 250 members of the band unloaded from the buses. Members were met with warm greetings and kind words as they made their way through the crowd.

“I haven’t seen the City of Talladega come together like this before. It was a welcoming and warm feeling,” said assistant band director Adrian Thompson. “Usually the city only comes together for parades and events, but this is different. This is one of the biggest things to ever happen in Talladega.”

Upon exiting the buses, Talladega College President Billy C. Hawkins gave a quick speech. In the speech Hawkins said he was pleased to see the community come together, and thanked everyone for supporting his band.

“As you can see the audience here today and the unity is phenomenal,” stated Hawkins.

Hawkins said making the decision to let the band participate was tough, but he could not let the young men and women of the Tornado Band miss this opportunity.

“I have never wavered from my decision in December to let the marching band witness the peaceful transition of power,” said Hawkins. “Students earned this right. It’s an experience they’ll never forget.” He added this trip is strictly about the students, and has nothing to do with politics.

Hawkins also updated the crowd on the amount of money that was donated to the college from all across the country. After an appearance on the O’Reilly Factor last week, the Bands GoFundMe account received over $200,000 that night. Hawkins announced Bill O’Reilly will personally send $25,000 to the school, bringing the donation total to approximately $700,000.

The money raised will stay with the band completely. The funds will go towards a new uniforms, new instruments, scholarships, and possibly a new band facility.

Hawkins agreed with Thompson’s statement that this is one of the biggest things to ever happen to Talladega and Talladega College, and said that the whole world now knows where his school and city is located.

After Hawkins’ speech, a prayer was delivered by Talladega College Alumnus, Dr. Horace Patterson. Following the prayer, the band re-boarded the buses. After many cheers and well wishes, the band was escorted out of the city by police and started its journey to Washington D.C.

The Talladega College Great Tornado Band will perform shortly after the inauguration ceremony, which begins Friday morning at 11.

Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2017, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.