There are some nerves, but mostly excitement among the members of Harford County's TwirlTasTix baton-twirling team who will be performing during the presidential inauguration festivities next week, as they have a chance to show their sport to a massive television audience.
"Not many people know what baton twirling is, and we'd love to put it out there and represent our sport on a national level like this," twirler Kaitlyn Opperhauser, 20, of Bel Air, said.
Sixteen members of TwirlTasTix, who are between the ages of 9 and 21, will perform during the "Voices of the People" welcoming concert near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Jan. 19. President-elect Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president the next day.
Trump, a billionaire businessman, fought a bruising primary campaign to become the Republican Party nominee and another brutal general election fight against his Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Divisions remain among the American people after the campaign, and a number of high-profile entertainers have pledged to boycott performing at Trump's inauguration.
Christine Zoll, director of TwirlTasTix, stressed the team wants to "be part of unifying everyone again and presenting a positive message."
"If everybody could look into these beautiful young people's eyes... we need to think about what they're seeing and what they're feeling and what they're growing up into [and] just try to work together better," Zoll said.
TwirlTasTix twirlers, girls who range from age 6 to 21, have performed in multiple regional, state and national competitions. They can also be seen at local events, such as Aberdeen IronBirds baseball games, halftime shows during Harford Community College basketball games and last month's annual Bel Air Christmas parade.
The program started in 2002 as a small class and rapidly became a competitive team, according to a news release from TwirlTasTix.
"It's something I've always thought about, doing some of these big international events," Zoll said.
Many Baltimoreans are preparing already to attend either the inauguration or the Women's March in D.C. next month. As in years past, they'll hop on a chartered bus, take the MARC train south or go early and stay over with family, friends or in a hotel.
"Having some positive feedback like this will be so huge for them," Zoll said. "It will be huge for the whole sport."
The team practices at First Presbyterian Church of Bel Air on North Main Street, where they have been based for about four years.
"They have just truly been a blessing to us," Zoll said of church officials.
A fundraising page has been established on GoFundMe to raise money to offset the cost of the trip, as well as new costumes, batons and shoes. The team has rented two charter buses to transport the twirlers, as well as their coaches and families. They will be in Washington for the day, according to Zoll.
Zoll said any money left over after the team's expenses are covered would go to a scholarship fund for the older girls, plus a donation to the church.
Opperhauser is a 2014 graduate of Fallston High School who is in her sophomore year at Harford Community College, taking classes child and family studies. She has been twirling for 15 years and has been with TwirlTasTix for about three.
"I just love the sense of family and togetherness that we have," she said. "We've twirled together for so long that we just have this really close-knit bond that not many people get to have."
Opperhauser's mother is traveling with her to Washington.
Eva Theresa "Tess" Grove, 19, of Edgewood, is going with her parents and younger sister, Rebecca, who is also on the TwirlTasTix team.
Grove, a 2015 graduate of Edgewood High School, has been with TwirlTasTix since she was 8 years old. She is studying neuroscience at the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pa., where she is a sophomore. Her younger sister is a 14-year-old freshman at EHS.
"I feel like it's a really good opportunity to show the positive aspects of baton twirling," Grove said of the inaugural festivities.
She said the girls will have team and individual performances during the concert.
Grove said she advises her younger teammates to keep working hard to achieve their goals, and to keep loving the sport, because "if you don't love it, it's not as fun."