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Gator Bowl or bust


Kingswood cheerleaders raising funds for trip to perform on the big stage


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by Joshua Spaulding
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Sports Editor - Granite State News, Carroll County Independent, Meredith News, Gilford Steamer, Littleton Courier, Winnisquam Echo, Plymouth Record-Enterprise and Baysider

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THE KINGSWOOD cheerleaders, seen during last year's basketball season, will be performing as part of halftime at the Gator Bowl in Florida. Kathy Sutherland. (click for larger version)
August 04, 2014
WOLFEBORO — The Kingswood cheerleaders have a bit of a trip ahead of them.

The squad will be heading to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. at the end of this year to cheer during the halftime show.

World Strides Heritage Performances produces halftime shows for five different bowl games and picks schools from across the country to participate.

Kingswood coach Bambi Dixon, herself a Kingswood graduate, admits that she was a bit surprised when she got the e-mail inviting the Kingswood team to travel to Florida, but she is excited for the team to get the opportunity to perform on such a big stage.

"They really seek out the smaller schools to give them the opportunity," she said.

Of course, a trip to Florida for an entire cheerleading team doesn't come cheap and while small fundraisers and donations will all do their part, Dixon was well aware it would likely take more than bake sales and car washes (which the team continues to do) to make this trip a reality.

"To raise $20,000 is kind of daunting," Dixon said. "We needed something big.

"You have to think outside the box," she added.

As it happens, Dixon has a friend who owns Rochester Toyota and was able to get her a new truck at cost and offered the truck up as a raffle prize. Therefore, the team has to sell at least 2,000 tickets to make the raffle a viable option for fundraising.

The Knights have been out all over the school district and beyond, selling raffle tickets to the public at local businesses and events. They attended the Fourth of July parade in Ossipee, as well as the fireworks show, they held a yard sale at Sunny Villa Restaurant on Route 16 in Ossipee, where they also sold the raffle tickets.

And the selling will continue right into the school year.

"We'll be selling them at sporting events starting in August," Dixon said.

Additionally, the team is planning a silent auction in October amongst other fundraisers as they push to make the trip a reality.

The original e-mail inviting the Knights to Florida came in January and since then, Dixon noted the deposit has been sent and the kids have been working hard to raise the money needed.

"The next stop as far as football games goes is the Super Bowl," Dixon said of the immensity of the game they will be performing at. "There's going to be 70,000 fans in the stands."

The team will arrive in Florida on Dec. 30 and will stay through Jan. 3 and will be busy the entire time they are there.

"Pretty much 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. is scripted," Dixon said of the schedule, also noting that the team will rehearse the routine for weeks before heading to the game.

"They expect us to know the routine before we go," she said.

The sheer magnitude of the event may be overwhelming for just about anyone. There will be 1,100 cheerleaders from throughout the country, plus a huge marching band as well. She praises her kids for being willing to tackle such a big moment.

"I would be scored to go out there in front of 70,000 people," she laughed.

At the same time, she also knows the work that the Knights put in each and every day will come back to help them and when they step onto the turf in Florida they will be prepared and ready to go.

"We work hard, these kids are working hard," she said. "They leave with fat lips and black eyes sometimes."

She pointed out that people don't always see the dangers in cheerleading and one of the reasons for that is the fact that the teams rehearse so much that it often looks easy.

"People don't realize how dangerous it is, but that's because we log the hours in practice to make it look easy," Dixon said. "I'm proud of how hard they work."

The Knight coach pointed out that 12 kids have signed up for the football season, so those are the 12 kids who will be making the trip at the end of the year, along with one manager. Six of those athletes are returning to the team, while six are new to the squad.

Dixon went on to praise the local businesses that have been nothing but supportive of the team's cause, allowing the cheerleaders to sell tickets outside their doors throughout the summer months.

"All of the businesses have been great," she said. "They've let us set up tables, they've all been wonderful and receptive. That makes our job easier."

In addition to the incredible experience the Knights will get from performing in front of 70,000 people and on television in front of many more, the kids each get half a high school credit for their performance.

"The school realizes all the work that goes into that," she noted.

Dixon also noted the kids are excited to make the trip and she's excited for them and the opportunities it could provide them moving forward.

"It looks great on the resume," she said. "How many people can say they performed at the Gator Bowl."

Come 2015, 12 Kingswood Knights will be able to say just that.

More information on the team's fundraising efforts can be found on the squad's Facebook page at Kingswood Regional High School Varsity Cheerleaders

Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or sportsgsn@salmonpress.com

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