FINDLAY Last Thanksgiving, Kitanya Murray and Christopher Anderson were marching with the Findlay High School band at Disneyland in sunny California.
This year, they once again will miss having turkey dinners at their homes, but they don t mind.
The two juniors will be performing in the Macy s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City as part of the 236-person Macy s Great American Marching Band, made up of high school students from each of the 50 states.
I love watching the Macy s Thanksgiving parade. It s the most famous parade ever, and it s not very often anyone gets the chance to actually be in it, Christopher, 16, said. I just think it will be a great experience.
Christopher plays the mellophone, which he described as the marching version of the French horn, while Kitanya, who s also 16, plays the alto saxophone, an instrument she chose in fifth grade because not many girls play it. I decided to be different and play an out-of-rank instrument, she said.
While Kitanya filled out an application and sent in an audition tape to qualify for the Macy s band, Christopher admitted he was able to forgo the application process after meeting one of the band s directors, Richard Good, of Auburn University, at a band camp last summer at the University of Virginia.
The Macy s Great American Band, which will be co-directed by Jon Woods, of Ohio State University, is a first for the parade, which is in its 80th year.
The parade has become the way Americans celebrate the holiday season. It s one of the key elements of Thanksgiving, said Orlando Veras, a spokesman for the Macy s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We ve become known as America s Parade, and we took that mantra to heart.
With 26 floats, 14 giant balloons, 16 specialty units, 14 performance groups, 11 clown groups, and a dozen marching bands in the parade, he said it wasn t feasible to represent each of the 50 states in any other way than to put together a band with members from each state and the District of Columbia.
Organizers initially tried to get four students per state but wound up with varying numbers, including 11 from Ohio and nine from Michigan.
The key for us was to get the very best students, he added. Unlike a band that s been together for years or even for a year, these kids will come together for the first time this weekend, so they have to be the best of the best.
They ve been rehearsing on their own with the music they ll be performing, but they will be rehearsing together for just three days before they have to perform in front of 50 million people.
Findlay band director Tim Mattis is thrilled for his students, who leave for New York tomorrow, even if he will be watching the parade from home on television.
I couldn t be prouder as if I was a parent myself of these kids, he said. That s kind of representative of the general type kid we get to work with in the Findlay Trojan marching band individuals that will not only represent themselves and their school and community well but the entire state of Ohio.
Mr. Veras said parade watchers shouldn t have any trouble spotting Macy s Great American Marching Band because it will be the first band in the parade and its members will be sporting bright red and white uniforms.
Kitanya said that s the one thing she might have changed had she been consulted.
I think it would be cool if we were all in our own school [band] uniforms, she said. It d be easier to point out Chris and me, and you could truly see how all-American the band really is.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-353-5972.