The Illinois Valley Central Marching Grey Ghosts will be marching to the beat of warmer weather this week in San Diego, Calif.

A group of 110 students, parents and chaperones — 80 are band members — left this morning at 7 a.m. from Chillicothe.

It isn't quite as simple as it sounds.

Matt Chapman, IVC director of bands, explained that all the uniforms, band instruments, general equipment, luggage and more were packed up Thursday in a semi-truck to meet them at their final destination — the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl in San Diego where UCLA will take on Baylor University.

Because of safety requirements, police officers are helping the students by inspecting the contents of the semi-truck.

"The Chillicothe Police Department is being great in helping us," said Chapman.

Once they land in Los Angeles, the group will eat a meal at the historic Pig 'N Whistle before taking a bus trip to San Diego.

On Thursday, the group meets for an early breakfast before marching in the Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade where they will represent Chillicothe by playing "Ghost Riders in the Sky." The parade will be nationally televised at 8 a.m. (EST) (7 a.m. in Chillicothe) Friday on the USA network.

After marching, the group will head to a two-hour practice at Otay Ranch High School in Chula Vista before heading to the college game at the Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Kickoff time is 6:45 p.m. PST.

About 500 high school band members, including the Marching Grey Ghosts, will play during the halftime show. They will entertain the crowd with a medley of rock tunes including songs by the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen.

Named "Salute to American Heroes," IVC is honoring and recognizing, during the show, one of its own, 1984 IVCHS graduate Doug Smith. He served in the Air Force during Desert Storm.

About five years ago, IVC students made this same trip, and Chapman cited many things that the students will enjoy.

"Just being in California, first of all," he said. "They've heard of a great zoo, a great Sea World, and they get to see it for themselves. They're playing at the Quantumm. It's pretty intense. They're predicting a 100-plus score game ... Just to march along the bay."

"There are freshmen in college that want to come back," Chapman chuckled about former students who made the last trip.

It comes with a hefty price tag of about $200,000. A trip every few years is one of the things for which the band fundraises.

"We thank the community for helping us with that," said Chapman.

They are not the only ones Chapman is thanking.

"We thank the administration for being very cooperative throughout all the obstacles we had," he said. They did not have enough money for charter buses they had planned to take, so they took school buses. District drivers who regularly shuffled the band students around during marching season volunteered to get them to Chicago and back.

While in San Diego, the students will sail around the harbor on a boat tour, play at the beach, check out the San Diego Zoo and see Shamu at Sea World.

The group will perform one more time on the trip on Saturday as they will provide music on the flight deck of the retired USS Midway and the Aircraft Carrier Museum.

They will play patriotic medleys, as well as the national anthem and "Ghost Riders in the Sky." The jazz band also will play "American Patrol" to remember World War II.

The USS Reagan is stationed across the bay from where they will be performing, and Chapman said he is excited for the students to be able to experience the area.

No trip to California could be complete without a day to see Mickey Mouse at Disney Land in Anaheim.

On Monday, the group will make the most of their time by finishing their sightseeing in Los Angeles, including the popular areas of the Hollywood sign, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theater before flying home.

Their whirlwind tour ends right before it's time to usher in 2013. They plan to arrive home around 11 p.m. Monday.

"We continue to represent Chillicothe. We do that with the uttermost respect. We take that seriously," said Chapman.

This is the second time in only a couple months the group has performed for a national audience. They played Oct. 21 for the St. Louis Rams vs. Green Bay Packers NFL game.

The experience not only gives the students more practice on playing in a larger area, but Chapman said it generates excitement and quality for the program.

"Not every program gets to do this," the director said.

Because of the experiences, Chapman said it opens more doors for the IVC Marching Grey Ghosts in the future.

"They are calling us," he said of organizers needing bands to perform.