Two Southridge High School students are traveling for Thanksgiving this year. But rather than sitting down to turkey and the trimmings with family and friends, the Kennewick teens will be in uniform, one grasping a flag and the other a trumpet.
They will be marching down New York City’s 34th Street in one of the nation’s longest-running holiday events — Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Flag team captain Sandra Phillips and trumpeter Noah Barney, both 17, are two of the three Washington high school students selected for this year’s Great American Marching Band. They left Friday for New York City to participate in rehearsals before the parade Nov. 27.
It’s taken hard work to be in the marching band, both said, noting the hours they spent preparing and raising the thousands of dollars needed for their travel. But, they said, it’s an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.
“I’ll be cold there, but I’ll be performing and in New York and in a parade that everybody watches,” Sandra said.
Department store Macy’s has sponsored the parade known for its large balloons since 1924. Sandra has long wanted to be in the parade; her sisters Kristen and Lizzi performed in 2007 and 2012, respectively. Noah’s interest in the event piqued after he started dating Lizzi and learned more about the marching band from the family.
“It’s just something amazing to tell people,” he told the Herald.
Thousands applied for the band’s 230 slots. Sandra and Noah submitted video resumés in late spring showcasing their skills. They were accepted into the band in July, though not before having some anxiety.
“Sandra was really nervous,” said her mother Jill Phillips. “She kept checking the website.”
“(Sandra) cried. I didn’t,” said Noah.
The band will play renditions of Bruno Mars’ Locked Out of Heaven and Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off during the parade . Noah had to have the music memorized before flying to the East Coast.
Sandra couldn’t do much preparation in advance. She and the other flag performers aren’t taught their routines until they arrive in New York City.
“I just do basics every other day with the flag so I don’t lose talent,” she said.
Each band member must pay at least $1,535 for their room and board in the days before the parade and that doesn’t include travel to and from New York City. Sandra and Noah organized a car wash fundraiser earlier this fall, and they have sold Coke products and homemade holiday decorations and held bake sales. They still need to cover about half the cost of the trip, which their families are helping to cover.
“At least it’s Christmas shopping season, so we can make stuff to sell,” Noah said.
They will get to experience plenty more than the parade while in New York City. Band members will take in a Broadway show, visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and go to the top of the GE Building, commonly known by its address, 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The students also plan to stay several more days after the parade to take in more sights with their families, such as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Sandra and Noah know that it will be a whirlwind trip, but they and their families said it will be worth it.
“They picked these kids because they know they are over and above in their abilities,” said Jill Phillips.