In the wee hours of the morning Nov. 19, 196 students from Greendale High School boarded coach buses headed for New York City. The marching band will be appearing in the 97th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“We’re so excited,” said sophomore clarinet player Keira Block. “We’re obviously talking a lot about what we’re going to wear, and what we’re going to do, and I think we’re going to be exhausted just because there’s so many fun things planned.”
The parade, known for high-flying balloons, floats and musical performances, stretches two and a half miles from Central Park West to Herald Square. The Greendale band is one of just six high school groups nationwide selected to appear in this year’s event.
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The Wisconsin students will spend several days exploring the Big Apple and rehearsing for their performance. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, they’ll march through the city streets playing “Hooked on a Feeling” and a selection of songs from “The Lion King.”
Groups submit applications to march in the parade several years in advance, according to Greendale director of bands Tom Reifenberg. The bands that are selected are notified 18 months before the parade with a special ceremony.
“Because it’s a year-and-a-half in advance, seventh graders at the time will be freshmen in the parade,” he said. “So it’s a really interesting mix in that ceremony, because you’ve got kids that will be graduating, that helped get the band this honor, but they won’t be marching in the parade.”
Another reason for the advance timeline is to give groups adequate time to raise money for the trip, Reifenberg said.
“We never exclude someone based on financial means, and we’ll always find a way to help them because we feel that music and the arts are important, and that it shouldn’t be an exclusive activity only for people that can afford it,” he said.
This is the second time the Greendale Band is appearing in the Macy’s parade. They last marched in the New York City event in 2016.
When they’re not marching in the parade, the students will spend the rest of their time in New York exploring attractions like Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. They’ve got tickets to see “MJ: The Musical,” a biographical show about Michael Jackson, on Broadway.
Block says she’s most looking forward to seeing the Radio City Rockettes, who perform kick-line dance routines in the parade every year.
“They’ve just been like, popping off on my social media a lot lately, because somehow my phone knows that we’re going to New York,” Block said. “But it’s really cool that we get to go backstage and meet a Rockette, and then the next day we get to see the actual show.”
Block’s mom, sister and grandma will be joining her in New York, and the rest of her family will be watching from home.
“I think they’re really excited to see me on TV,” she said. “I know they’re all really proud of me.”
The 97th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will air on NBC and Peacock at 8:30 a.m. in all time zones on Thursday.
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