A chance to perform alongside 1,000 cheerleaders from across the United States. A crowd filled with people from other countries. A time of running off the coffee from that morning. An event televised in several different countries. These are a few of the experiences Wadena-Deer Creek All-American cheerleaders senior Maggie Carlson and sophomore Kendall Godel had as they joined the London New Year’s Day Parade.

The Varsity Spirit trip opportunity became available after Carlson and Godel tried out at a Universal Cheerleaders Association camp, where they learned a dance and cheer and did their best jump before being scored. With the All-American cheerleader ranking, they flew to London and found themselves staying in a hotel by the Tower Bridge and running and dancing on the 2 mile parade route through London.

The parade included about 10,000 performers and up to half a million audience members, according to BBC. Carlson also noted the excitement of the crowd, especially since other countries do not have cheerleading to such a scale as the U.S.

“It was just crazy. They were all so excited to see us. They were all screaming and cheering for us and it was really cool,” Carlson said.

While performing their dance routine, there was also a fair amount of running in order to catch up with the parade route, according to Godel. Besides meeting new cheerleaders, Carlson and Godel mentioned the “really, really nice” people in London and fellow performers.

“We were behind some drummer people so … while we were waiting we were dancing to the drums and then there was like a battle between some of the cheerleaders and between the drummers. It was really fun,” Godel said.

With smiles that could not be wiped from their faces and adrenaline that stopped them from thinking about anything else, Godel and Carlson enjoyed the parade experience and excitement of the crowd.

The week-long trip also included visiting sites in the heart of London and Windsor, such as Windsor Castle, ‘The Walkie Talkie,’ Cleopatra’s needle, The Gherkin, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. At the Castle, Godel and Carlson viewed the different state rooms and where Queen Elizabeth II welcomes people.

“It was incredible. They don’t let us take pictures of any of it but when you watch movies and read books about that stuff, that’s exactly what it feels like being in there because it’s all preserved so well. There’s all the big chandeliers and just all the intricate architecture and just everything’s made so carefully,” Carlson said.

Godel also related the experience to the movie, “Frozen,” when one of the characters, Anna, is seen singing in a room filled with people’s portraits.

“It almost looked like ‘Frozen’ like that castle, I’m not going to lie, like the hallway (with) the photos everywhere, there was a room like that and I was like, ‘Wow,’” Godel said.

Another favorite was Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, where there were little shops, rides, ice skating and ice sculptures, along with some cold weather that kept Godel and Carlson’s toes freezing.

“There was an ice sculpture building where they made like a bunch of ice sculptures about … ‘A Christmas Carol,’” Godel said. “It was very pretty and cold.”

Godel and Carlson also enjoyed the modern and old architecture styles in London, calling it “a step back in time.” In present day, they rode on a double decker bus and simply adventured on their first trip out of the country for cheerleading.

“We both feel pretty grateful that we’ve gotten this opportunity through cheerleading and through the school to be able to do stuff like this. And I really hope that the school keeps pushing opportunities like this because we’d go back in a heartbeat,” Carlson said.

To join the parade and see London, Carlson and Godel fundraised for a portion of the trip, though they noted how hard it is to fundraise when cheerleaders have previously gone on the trip or because of different school activities that also need money. One of the trips the cheerleaders fundraised for last year was going to the Citrus Bowl when the whole WDC team was ranked as All-American.

All in all, Godel and Carlson recommend future cheerleaders try out to be able to have “the experience of a lifetime.”

“I just recommend it to anyone else who makes All-American, it’s very fun,” Godel said. “There’s really nothing you can lose if you don’t try out. If you don’t make it then you don’t make it but if you do, it’s very fun.”