While his peers slept in and played Xbox over their winter break, Sultana senior Ricky Mendez was getting up early and commuting most days.


"It was really exciting," said Ricky Mendez, 17. "But, like, really tiring as well."


Mendez, a saxophonist and drum major with school's marching band, was one of 228 musicians chosen to perform this year with the Pasadena City College Tournament of Roses Honor Band in the 123rd annual Rose Parade.


The morning of Jan. 2, Mendez normally a late sleeper had to get up around 3:30 a.m.


"We had to get a lot of preparation (done) early," he said. "We were supposed to be there at 4:45."


His family made it easier on themselves by spending the night before in Pasadena.


The band didn't actually begin marching until 9 a.m. But in the weeks leading up to the parade, Mendez had become friends with fellow members of the band's brass section.


"At first, it was a lot of working and we didn't have that much time to talk to other people, but in the last week, we had time," especially when the band performed at Disneyland. "We had a lot more time to talk and go to lunch and things like that. ... We became extremely close that last week."


For Mendez, who dreams of a career in music, giving up his weeks off from school to preparing for the parade was "definitely worth it."


"It was one of the best experiences I've ever had to this point and I wouldn't take that away just to sleep in," he said. "It was well worth it, the practices, the getting up early and the long drives there."


The experience also gives him something to mention when applying to colleges, and when Mendez auditions for the Berklee College of Music this spring.


Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.