Grace Barnett kept the colorful confetti that rained down on her and her Cary High bandmates one April day last year, when they were told they would march in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“I still have a little bit of confetti in my backpack, just so I can remember that moment,” said Grace, a drum major in the band, about the surprise announcement in the school’s auditorium.
More than a year’s worth of anticipation for Barnett and the rest of the band – not to mention months of fundraising and practice – will come to an end Thursday as 182 Cary High School Band members march down the streets of New York City. The 90th annual parade will be televised live on NBC at 9 a.m.
“I’m still nervous – a lot nervous,” said Kelcey Tullis, a junior and member of the color guard. “It’s going to be cold, and I’m terrified, but I’m so excited.”
It won’t be the first time the Cary High School Band has been in the parade, but it’s been awhile. The last time was in 1978. They are one of 10 bands from across the country and the only one from North Carolina chosen to travel to New York this week. A dance troupe from Fuquay-Varina’s Five Star Studio also will participate with other dancers from around the country.
The Cary High School Band will perform two songs, including “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, during the 2.5-mile parade march, said Matt Minick, the band director who has been at Cary High since 2000.
“It’s totally classic,” he said. “My intent for it was for it to be entertaining to the crowd. I want people to be like, ‘Oh, that was the band that played Journey. I love them. They were great.’ ”
The parade will culminate in a solo performance at Herald Square outside the Macy’s building.
“The hard part of that is that it’s at the end of the parade,” Minick said. “So what we’ve practiced is marching around the school, and then around the school again, and then still having the chops and the endurance for (the Herald Square show), because that’s where you get the most TV time.”
But Barnett believes adrenaline will push them through the long march and cold weather.
“There’s so much excitement leading up to it that I feel once we get there, there will be this big rush of adrenaline, and it’ll feel like a blur – two seconds compared to all the buildup,” she said.
In preparation for Thursday’s event, the students have spent the past year and a half raising money to make the trip more affordable through a fundraising campaign called “Earn Your Green.” The funds not only cover travel and lodging expenses but also a chance for the band members to experience New York City, including a Broadway show. The trip costs about $1,250 per person.
Minick said they plan to go to Ellis Island, tour the financial district, have dinner in Times Square, play in Central Park, see the Rockettes and more.
David George, who marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1978 when he was a junior, remembers the experience as “phenomenal,” even if it was one of the coldest moments of his life. But the rest of the trip, like the Broadway show, really made it a once-in-a-lifetime trip, he said.
“The parade was a great experience, but I think the rest of the experience is what I remember more,” George said. “That’s the time you get to spend with your friends.”
His advice for this year’s students? “Enjoy the New York experience.”
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon
Love a parade?
▪ The parade will air at 9 a.m. on NBC.
▪ The 2016 parade features 16 giant character balloons; 24 novelty, balloonicles, balloonheads, and trycaloons; 26 floats; 12 marching bands, 1,100 cheerleaders/dancers; and more than 1,000 clowns.
▪ The longest balloon is the Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger at 78 feet long. The tallest is The Elf on the Shelf at 64 feet, and tied for the widest is Hello Kitty and DreamWorks’ Trolls at 38 feet.
Source: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade