When the University of Alabama’s Million Dollar Band walks past television cameras at Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York on Thursday, viewers in the Chattanooga area can recognize familiar faces.
Seven students from Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama will perform in the 400-member ensemble.
This is the first appearance in Macy’s parade of the Million Dollar Band, whose musicians will be among 10 marching bands and 8,000 participants in total.
The parade’s iconic attraction – 15 giant helium-filled balloons – will soar between the skyscrapers and celebrities ranging from Carrie Underwood to Kelly Rowland to Kristin Chenoweth will perform. The 2.5 mile course will also feature 28 floats, 36 original and heritage inflatables, nine performance groups and over 800 clowns.
Although the pandemic has meant a smaller parade and no live audiences in 2020, executive producer Will Coss has vowed that this year’s 95th edition will mark “the return of that beloved tradition.” The show typically draws 3.5 million spectators to the streets of Manhattan, as well as 50 million viewers.
(READ MORE: Thanksgiving travel rebounds in the Chattanooga area after a lukewarm 2020)
âMacy’s Thanksgiving Parade is one of America’s iconic holiday traditions,â said Ken Ozzello, music teacher and group director at UA. “Having the opportunity to participate will be exciting for the members of the Million Dollar Band and provide them with lasting memories.”
The group and support staff departed on three staggered flights Monday from Tuscaloosa and will return Friday on a similar schedule. Uniforms and instruments were sent by semi-truck. Tuesday was scheduled to include a guest performance by the Crimsonettes and Colorguard of the Million Dollar Band with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, followed by a group photo of the group in Times Square.
On Thanksgiving Day, musicians are scheduled to leave the hotel at 3 a.m. so they can adjust to a morning rehearsal before the parade at a staging area in Central Park West.
After the parade, they will have a Thanksgiving dinner at Liberty House, a restaurant known for its views of the Manhattan skyline, including the Statue of Liberty.
– Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade will air live from 9 a.m. to noon EST Thursday on NBC. The scheduled time for the Million Dollar Band to appear on camera is 11:57 am The network will repeat the parade from 2 pm to 5 pm, and it will air on Peacock.
It remains to be seen whether the awe-inspiring menu and inspiring scenery can make up for Thanksgiving’s absence at home.
âUnfortunately, Thanksgiving plans haven’t been canceled due to my absence, which means I’m going to have to run out of turkey and nasty desserts,â said Zachary Langner of Albertville, Alabama, a percussionist in the ‘front set of the group.
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Luke Cross of Dalton, GA, formerly of Ringgold, GA, said it was “a little sad” to miss Thanksgiving dinner with the family, “but I’ll be home for Christmas so I’m not too upset. “.
Asher Redd, a young mellophone player from Tullahoma, Tennessee, said his great-grandmother’s mac and cheese was hung until he could come home.
âIt’s definitely something I won’t miss,â he said. “My family is making plans to reunite when I return.”
More than 100 groups applied to participate in this year’s parade, according to Macy’s officials, who said they considered each group’s stage presence and musical and walking abilities for selection.
âWhen most Americans think of the University of Alabama, they might think of football. However, it’s the thrilling spectacle, the entertaining performances and the incredible music at halftime that grab our attention. “said Wesley Whatley, the show’s creative producer.
This year, six high school groups will also perform, the Hampton University Marching Force, the NYPD Marching Band (made up of active police officers) and the Macy’s Great American Marching Band, which draws its 300 musicians from across the country.
(READ MORE: Yes, there are turkeys for Thanksgiving – for a price)
NBC will air the parade from 9 a.m. to noon in all time zones, repeating the broadcast from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. EST and also airing it on Peacock.
The musicians of Crimson Tide will perform “Santa Claus Is Comin ‘to Town” during their time in front of the camera, which is expected to be 11:57 am The timing would indicate that they will inaugurate Santa Claus at the end of the parade. In their crimson and white uniforms, they will be dressed appropriately.
Contact Lisa Denton at [email protected] or 423-757-6281.
Meet the musicians
Million Dollar Band Chattanooga Area Members:
– From: Tullahoma, Tennessee; graduated from Tullahoma High School.
– Year / major: Junior specialized in news media with a minor in criminal justice.
– Rooms: Mellophone in the walking season, French horn in the off-season, âanything I can get my hands on, even if I don’t know how to playâ in his free time.
– Expectations: This is Redd’s first trip to New York, so he expects it to be “a bit of a culture shock.” Because he aspires to own a cafe someday, he can’t wait to visit Caffe Reggio, circa 1927, the first cafe in New York City. âThey exhibited the first espresso machine imported to the United States,â he said.
– From: Langston, Alabama; graduated from Guntersville High School.
– Year / major: first year student specializing in music education.
– Rooms: Alto saxophone in the group; can also play the piano “and a little flute”.
– Expectations: He’s been to New York once before, but he’s hoping to take a bigger bite of the Big Apple this time around.
âMy first trip was also a group trip during my freshman year of high school,â he said. âWe participated in the 100th Thanksgiving Dunkin ‘Donuts Parade in Philadelphia. It was a great trip that I will never forget, but we had little free time in NYC so I’m really glad to have more freedom on this trip.
This time, Smith hopes to explore the city as a whole, especially Times Square. “I am also very happy to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and” The Phantom of the Opera “on Broadway.”
– From: Langston, Alabama; graduated from Guntersville High School.
– Year / major: First year graduate in cybersecurity.
– Rooms: Tuba and sousaphone with fanfare; he took piano lessons in college and started trombone in his final year of high school.
– Expectations: He agreed with his twin brother, Jackson Smith, that the trip to Philadelphia, with its detour through New York, was the most memorable school trip he had ever been on. âI can’t wait to be able to stay in New York for longer now that I’m in college. He said he was eager to see “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
– From: Dalton, Georgia; Ringgold High School graduate.
– Rooms: Mellophone in the group; horn outside the band. Note: Cross played in the Chattanooga Youth Symphony and Opera Orchestras for seven years.
– Year / major: Major in first year musical performance.
– Expectations: Cross had visited New York before when the Marching Tiger Band of Ringgold High School performed at the New York Invitational Music Festival at Carnegie Hall. âI am delighted to see the Million Dollar Color Guard perform at Radio City Music Hall with the Rockettes,â he said.
– From: Albertville, Alabama; attended Guntersville High School for three years before moving to Albertville High School in his senior year.
– Year / major: First year student specializing in the teaching of instrumental music.
– Rooms: Percussion in the front set; also plays guitar and piano and sings.
– Expectations: This is Langner’s second trip to New York. âMy high school group went for my freshman year, but we only stayed there for two days,â he said. “I got to see ‘Wicked’ on Broadway while I was there, and it was amazing, of course.”
On this trip, Langner said he “intended to see ‘The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway, have a fancy dinner with some of my friends, and go out to dinner with my section (wearing matching Christmas socks). ). “
– From: Ooltewah; Graduated from Signal Mountain High School.
– Year / major: Sophomore with specialization in aerospace engineering and physics.
– Rooms: Trombone.
– Expectations: Kodsi said he came from a “big Broadway loving family” and had been to New York three times before.
âOn my first trip, my family took me to New York as a surprise trip to see ‘Wicked’ on Broadway, a show that practically obsessed me as a kid. My second trip involved traveling with the Chattanooga Boys Choir to sing at Carnegie Hall. On my last trip to town, my family traveled to see both âDear Evan Hansenâ and âMoulin Rougeâ on Broadway. â
To note: Scottsboro, Ala., Mellophone player Harley Koopman did not respond to email requests for comment.