Fort Mill residents who turn on the TV Thursday morning for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade may see some familiar faces.
On Monday, six buses left Nation Ford High School carrying nearly 350 students, parents and staff and more than 200 instruments – all destined for New York. The Nation Ford High School Marching Band is one of only eight high school bands in the country selected to perform in the world’s largest parade.
Nation Ford Band Director Martin Dickey said 250-400 bands apply for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade every year. This is school’s second performance, its first was in 2011.
“It can be overwhelming when you realize there will be more spectators on the parade route than the population of South Carolina,” he said. “Add to that the estimated 30-50 million viewers on NBC television and it helps you understand the scope.”
The band will have a 75-second spot starting at 10:07 a.m. on NBC. Dickey said the comparable one-minute commercial would cost over $1 million.
“As our Principal Jason Johns says, ‘It is a big deal,’” Dickey added.
The caravan will not return to the Palmetto State until Saturday after a proper tour of the Big Apple, including Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, Top of the Rock, Times Square, 9/11 Memorial, seeing “Miss Saigon” on Broadway and a harbor cruise down the Hudson River as they enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner.
“These students may never have another opportunity to visit New York again in their lifetime,” Nation Ford High School Band Boosters president Sarah Kennen said.
She and other booster club members have been organizing fundraisers since the band received the news last year — everything from selling car magnets and red bows for mailboxes to raffling off Macy’s Statue of Liberty bears and the band’s annual oyster roast.
“I think this is an awesome opportunity for the students to represent our community of Fort Mill, our school and our state in a positive way,” Kennan said. “We are the only band in South Carolina that has auditioned and been invited back to the parade for a second time. The students have worked so hard all season to reach this pinnacle.”
Senior Aidan Puzzio, 17, is the head drum major for the marching band. This is not his first trip to New York; He lived there until moving to Fort Mill at age 11 and visits every few summers.
“It’s not new territory to me, but it is such an honor to be going for such a prestigious event,” he said.
Although he’s definitely excited about performing in the parade, he’s also looking forward to visiting the 9/11 Memorial which opened to the public after his last trip to New York.
“I haven’t had a chance to see it,” he said. “And, coming from a family who was very close to the World Trade Center when the towers fell, it will probably be my favorite part of the trip.”
During his four years in Nation Ford’s band program, Puzzio has seen some of the most hard-working and dedicated students, band directors and parent volunteers in the school, he said.
“I think our motivation to ‘be the best that we can be,’ – our band’s slogan – helped us get more on the national radar,” Puzzio said. “And after our band directors went through the rigorous application process, I’m sure our hard work on the marching field and in the concert setting was seen by the men and women who select the bands.”
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade will air on Thursday from 9 a.m to noon on NBC.
Stephanie Jadrnicek: firstname.lastname@example.org