After months of practice and fundraising, the Lakota West Marching Firebirds held their final rehearsal Thursday before performing in the 87th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
At around 10:12 a.m. Thursday, the nearly 300-member group will perform a tribute to American composer Aaron Copland for an estimated 3.5 million live spectators and more than 50 million TV viewers. Their 75-second appearance will start with “Fanfare for the Common Man” and segue into “Appalachian Spring.” Then, band members will exit Herald Square to “Fight On” — the Lakota West Fight Song.
“The kids are just besides themselves,” said Greg Snyder, a Lakota band director for 26 years, the past 17 of which have been spent at Lakota West. “They’re so excited about getting on the bus Monday morning and representing our school in this world showcase.”
The Marching Firebirds are the only high school band from Ohio and one of only seven prep bands nationwide invited to perform at this year’s parade. They’ll also be the first high school band to perform.
Snyder said band members worked incredibly hard during what he described as “an awesome season.”
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“The kids have really stepped up,” he said. “We have the brand new uniforms and lots of new brass instruments, so we’re going to look and sound great.”
The band’s road to New York City started 18 months ago when the Macy’s Parade Band Selection Committee chose them from a list of hundreds of applicants.
The rigorous selection process was based on certain key factors such as the band’s national recognition, awards, past performances and reputation in their community.
“Ohio has a great tradition of nurturing some of the best marching band programs in the country and Lakota West ranks among the very best high school programs in the state,” said Wesley Whatley, the parade’s creative director. “Macy’s Band Selection Committee was impressed by the school’s commitment to musical story telling and excellent marching skill.”
Meagan Dembicky, a 17-year-old senior who serves as the band’s field commander, said she was very excited to get a chance to perform for tens of millions of people.
“I think it’s going to be a really cool experience for our whole band to finally have all our hard work pay off in a really neat way,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for us and the band program itself. Everyone’s just beyond excited. I don’t think we’ll be able to put the experience into words until we’re actually there. It’ll be great.”
Parent volunteer and trip chaperone John Trygier Sr., whose son plays quads in the band’s drumline, said he’s excited the teens will be able to perform in the parade, as well as view a Broadway show and visit Ground Zero and Ellis Island.
“There’s things that they’ll get to do that some of the kids would never experience otherwise,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for them to learn and understand part of our history in this country.”
Despite his excitement, Trygier said he hasn’t yet fully realized the enormity of the event.
“At 4:30 in the morning Monday when we’re getting on the bus, it’ll really sink in,” he said and laughed.
The Lakota West students won’t be the only area youth performing in the parade. Four members of the Mason-based Comet Skippers will be featured as part of 200 jump rope athletes from across the country during a live 1-minute segment.
Organized by the Heartbeats Jump Rope Team in Cleveland, the group will appear under the acronym J.U.M.P. (Jumpers United for Macy’s Parade) and feature local jumpers Joci Hinners, Kevin Morrissey, Sean Newport and Singyi Yen.
“We’re very, very excited,” said Carmen Simpson, the team’s head coach. “It’s a huge honor to be selected. There was overwhelming response from across the U.S. and a lot of kids did not get picked.”
The four Comet Skippers will be among 74 of the 200 athletes selected to be featured on television.
This will be the second time the Comet Skippers have participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 2009, nine Comet Skippers joined the Heartbeats Jump Rope Team to participate in the parade.