White House

Lil’ Wranglers will bring Texas flair to Donald Trump’s inaugural festivities

The Lil’ Wranglers performing at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas. A group of 40 Texas-themed dancers will march in Donald Trump’s inauguration parade on Jan. 20 in Washington.
The Lil’ Wranglers performing at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas. A group of 40 Texas-themed dancers will march in Donald Trump’s inauguration parade on Jan. 20 in Washington. Courtesy Sharon Toups

On Jan. 20, nearly 8,000 performers from around the country will strut down Pennsylvania Avenue as part of Donald Trump’s inaugural festivities, including dozens of marching bands, equestrian corps and veterans’ groups.

But some of the youngest performers in the parade will be doing the jitterbug in a uniquely Texas style, wearing cowboy boots, Wrangler jeans and custom belt buckles as they walk through the nation’s capital.

On Friday, the Lil’ Wranglers, a troupe of dancers from College Station who range in age from 8 to 18, were announced as one of 40 groups selected to perform in the parade. An offshoot of Texas A&M’s Aggie Wranglers, the Lil’ Wranglers also have a Fort Worth studio that opened two years ago.

“This is our first national parade,” said Sharon Toups, who founded the group in 1999 as a way to get her kids involved in Texas-style swing dancing. “We have only done local Christmas parades in the past.”

Toups, who described the Lil’ Wranglers’ application as a “long shot,” won a spot in the parade by providing a video of the group’s performances and securing letters of recommendations from Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn along with members of Congress and local mayors. More than 3,000 groups applied.

The Lil’ Wranglers will have just three weeks to perfect their “Wrangler style swing” in front of thousands, a challenge, Toups said, because their Texas-style dance typically is performed in a static formation at events like San Antonio Spurs halftime shows, not marching in formation.

“We had to create something original to do Wrangler-style while moving and marching down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Toups said. “It’s challenging because I have to teach the kids how to keep moving and stay in formation. which is not that easy with kids. It takes many hours of practice to get ready.”

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The group has already had its first 4-hour practice on Thursday, she said. Next week, the group will begin twice daily rehearsals.

The group will be dancing to three country songs along the parade route: “I’m Thinking Country” by Frankie Ballard, “No Doubt” by the Casey Donahew Band and “Too Much Fun” by Daryle Singletary.

Toup said the Lil’ Wranglers are expected to visit Cornyn and Cruz and are looking for additional concert opportunities in Washington before the inauguration. The group has established a GoFundMe page to help fund the trip, which Toups estimates will cost $1,500 per participant. So far, more than $11,000 has been raised in eight days.

Toups, herself a former Aggie Wrangler, said the group “helps many guys and girls going through the awkward stages learn how to communicate and learn as partners” and that many Lil’ Wranglers have gone on to the senior ranks at Texas A&M.

The Lil’ Wranglers are one of three groups from Texas selected to perform in the inaugural parade. The Texas State Strutters, from San Marcos, and the 1st Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry Detachment, based at Fort Hood, will also participate. Both groups have previously performed at presidential inaugurations while the Lil’ Wranglers are performing at their first.

Despite the festive nature of the parade, Trump’s inauguration is expected to draw thousands of protesters. But Toups isn’t worried about the prospect of preteens being subject to partisan rancor while performing.

“Obviously, we are aware of possible protesting and I’m just hoping that people will see these kids are talented special little individuals who have come from Texas to pay respects to our country and our new president,” Toups said.

“This is a huge honor for us to represent Texas. We realize we’re bringing the youngest participants in the parade and we’re all very committed to make sure we do a good job for our state.”

Alex Daugherty: 202-383-6049, @alextdaugherty

The Lil’ Wranglers are asking for donations for their trip to Washington via GoFundMe. A link to the page can be found here.