Maddie Richie, a young Marco woman who's a rising senior at the University of Florida, has two big things and a little thing to think about this summer.
The big things are a field project in the American west for her college major, geology, and her trip to the Olympic Games in London. The little thing is one of the smallest musical instruments around – the piccolo. Which is part of the Olympics big thing actually, because it is Maddie's instrument in the Gator marching band.
About 160 of the band members are making the trip to the UK, leaving here via Orlando on July 23.
"We are the biggest group attending and performing at these Olympics, the biggest group as a unit," Maddie tells us.
"Apparently the size of our group is freaking out the hotels in London, so we don't know yet exactly where we're staying. They are trying to split us up into smaller groups for lodging.
"We do know that we'll be playing as part of the Olympics opening ceremonies. The venue where we'll be playing will have 80,000 people. Our band director says an official told him that the Gator Band is used to playing large venues, big crowds, and that's why they want us there.
"In The Swamp, our football stadium, we usually have about 90,000 people on average, so 80,000 isn't that big a deal for us."
Not all work and Games
Maddie and her friends in the band hope to see a lot of other sights in England while they're there, not just the Olympics.
"They plan to give us some free time so we can explore on our own. They know we're young adults. This isn't like an eighth grade class trip where they keep us together 24-7.
"We're planning on going to the theater; a bunch of us want to see Lion King and a couple of other plays. We'll go see Stonehenge, the Tower of London, all the big landmarks in the London area.
"I've never been to London, so I'm excited. The farthest north I've been is Canada, and to the south, Puerto Rico."
Maddie started band in the sixth grade at the Marco Island Charter Middle School. She also was in the band through all four years at Lely High School and this is her fourth year of band at the University of Florida.
"At the Charter Middle School I started on the flute, which is bigger than the piccolo. In my senior year I played baritone because they were short on baritone players. I'm more comfortable with flute than with the piccolo but I switched to piccolo at Florida because U of F marches with piccolos."
Maddie's music isn't the only thing that rocks
Maddie says she wants a degree in science, as both her parents have. Her mother Nancy is the environmental specialist for the City of Marco Island. Her father Michael, a Navy veteran, is in the U.S. Merchant Marine.
"Geology," Maddie says, "is challenging but very interesting. I had a class last semester called Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology. It was all about magma and rock origins, where magma comes up and the chemical composition of Magma and how crystals separate out from the molten melt and crystallize into solid rock.
"It's what goes on underneath the earth's surface. So I'm going to school to study rocks."
What about job prospects after college?
"There's petrology, which is looking at rocks and telling the oil company, 'oh yeah, there'll be oil here because of this, but no oil here because of that.' It's mostly analysis.
"Generally, there's a big job market for geologists now, in this economy, and there's the prospect of being sent all over the world. I think it's more exciting than being an engineer, which was my first major."
A lot of Florida Gator fans may find the Olympics on TV even more exciting than usual when they see the orange and blue marching Gators on opening night.
Says her proud mom, Nancy, "I know they will represent the university, our state and our country with style."
We'll be looking and listening for the piccolo section for sure.
Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. E-mail: email@example.com.