Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and Marching Band Logistics

Many are traveling these days to reach their destinations to celebrate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow with family members and friends.The weather has not been auspicious, which, according to CNN, threatens holiday travel. I am reminded of one of my favorite "transportation" movies starring Steve Martin, Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

But this is a celebratory post about Thanksgiving and about some of the logistics behind an event that has been occurring since 1924  -- the Thanksgiving Day Macy's parade in NYC. The parade is televised on Thursday morning, and is over around noon. Many families that are not taking part in it or spectating may be watching it on TV as the turkey and other delicacies are being prepared and cooked! We always try to catch about an hour of the parade especially the last hour.

This year the parade is extra special since the UMass Amherst Minuteman Marching Band  will be one of only two college bands selected to march in the Macy's parade. The other one is James Madison University's band. Our band is known as The Power and Class of New England and was led for thirty years by George Parks.

Our local paper had a full page announcement, compliments of Macy's, which I posted on my Isenberg School office door:

For those of you who may have missed the news, UMass is celebrating its sesquicentennial, that is, its 150th birthday! And this special year may be why, as noted by our wonderful alum  and MA State Senator, Stan Rosenberg, we got selected. (He did put in a plug for the band.) And our Chancellor has noted in a statement that participating in this annual tradition will be a highlight of the university’s 150th anniversary. “Being selected for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a high recognition of our band’s reputation for excellence and excitement,” Subbaswamy said.

UMass Amherst issued a nice release on its selection and when you are all cozily tucked in tonight the band will be up with a schedule that will certainly be challenging (but it is all about logistics). As the article in our local paper reports:  The 2½-mile march on the streets that takes about 60 to 90 minutes, is much longer than a 15-minute football halftime show.

The members expect to wake up by 3 a.m., be at Macy’s by 4 a.m. for a run through and final rehearsal, then take buses to the top of the route and be there by 7:45 a.m.

During the parade, the marching band will have to play constantly, with a cycle of four songs including “Fight UMass,” “God Bless America,” “Roll Down the Field” and “Sweet Caroline.” Ramsay said this will be a tribute to the Boston Red Sox.

The marching band ends its day with the featured number at the Macy's star. It is scheduled to be there at 11:24AM on Thanksgiving!

Rain, snow, or shine, the show and parade will go on (but perhaps if the wind gets bad there will be no huge balloon floats).