North America | United States of America (USA) | The Mid-Atlantic states | New York State | New York City – Thursday, Thanksgiving Day!
2:30 Wake up call
3:15 On buses
3:30 Buses pull away
4:30 Buses unload in New York City
5:00 Run through for NBC in Harold Square
5:45 Breakfast at Planet Hollywood
6:45 Reload buses
7:30 Unload buses, walk to staging area
9:00 Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade starts
9:45 USSBA All Star Color Guard starts the Macys Parade
11:00 Perform for NBC
11:30 Group photo
Noon Back on buses
12:30 Return to hotel
Ya, really, we were up at 2:30 in the morning. And the staff had set it up with the hotel that all the phones KEPT getting wake up calls every five minutes until we took the phones off the hook. I think we had one complete wing of the hotel, and all the other guests were somewhere else. I hope so. Otherwise, everyone would have been up at 2:30!
By 3:15, we had our navy blue wind suit uniforms, emblassioned with USSBA on, with layers of clothing underneath, and we were on the buses, trying to put on our makeup. Roll call revealed three members were missing from our bus. A knock on their door revealed that they had overslept, so they rode in to New York with the director as soon as they were dressed.
When we unloaded in New York, it was COLD! There is not really much else to say about New York that time in the morning. It wasnt quiet, because it was filled with marching bands warming up, 800 cheerleaders cheering, and tons of tap shoes warming up in the streets. We saw people out on street corners at 4:30 in the morning, protecting their prized viewing spots!
We ran through our routine twice for NBC. This gave their cameras an opportunity to see how many of us their were, and how much space we would take up. In the center of Harold Square, a giant green rectangle is painted on the street for the performers to perform on. I am probably ten yards off the rectangle. There is a camera almost due in front of me, but I am not expecting much from it. I am just happy to be here.
Breakfast at Planet Hollywood? But you didnt know they served breakfast, you say. I think they only do one day a year. Scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, bagels, pastries and juice. I am going light on the juice, it will be over six hours before I have the chance to see a restroom again. This was definitely the band spot. We all had timed slots to eat, and the next band was getting their food and moving into our tables before we were out of there.
Next, down towards Central Park to wait. The buses dropped us off, and we walked down Central Park West to our waiting area. As we crossed the street, we crossed in front of Santas Sleigh and walked up to where the Bob the Builder float was waiting. All the floats wait in order on Central Park West. The balloons wait in order on two side streets, perpendicular to Central Park West. The other performing groups wait in other areas. We were on the band side of the street, between the Roosevelt High School marching band from Hawaii and Miami (OH) University. Across the street, on the steps of the American Museum of Natural History, the cheerleaders, jump ropers, tap dancers and Kilgore Rangerettes waited on the steps for their turns to file into the parade.
Did we see any stars? Why, yes we did! The biggest screams came when Clay Atken and Ruben Studdard rode by on golf carts. Ruben came back later to claim his position on the Hess float, almost right in front of us! We kept cheering Whos dynamite? Rubens dynamite! Ruben goes tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick BOOM! Dynamite! Until he finally waved at us. Other celebrates that rode by were Miss America, Al Rokker, Mayor Bloomberg, and some cast members from Hairspray. As the floats went down the street, we were passed by Aaron Carter, and other musical acts.
Finally came our turn to file into line. The Peeps float rolled past and then, Horses! Oh no! I was very much looking forward to marching a parade without horses. Not only are their horses, but they are right in front of us, so the gifts left behind have not even been smushed flat by the motorized vehicles by the time we reached tem. Thank goodness I was halfway down the flanks!
Our marching beat was provided by the drum line from the University of Massachusetts. I like them, they even had an all female cymbal line! The color guard was divided into two flanks, with the drum line in-between. I was two rows back from the drum line, a great place to hear well. As the parade started, it started with an all-out pace. There is about two miles to be marched from where we started, to Harold Square, in front of Macys, were the performers get to pause and show their stuff for the cameras. So until the first group reached Harold Square, it was flat out, high speed marching! When groups did reach Harold Square, it moved into a phase where we would march a block, stop for two minutes, and then march another block. During these pauses in marching, the guard was permitted to stretch out, and the drum line moved on to some crowd pleasing showboating. The crowds are not interested in seeing us stand around, they are there to be entertained. It is estimated that the parade path is lined with 2.5 million people. Not only are they on street level, but they are also up in the buildings, looking out lots of open windows. What en interesting experience that would be to be eye-to-eye with the balloons as they float by!
Finally, we reached the Quiet Zone. Two blocks before the performance area, all acts have to quit performing, so that their sounds are not caught by the NBC microphones. This area was still completely liked with people. We smiles and we waved. The clowns behind us ran up to us with questions from the crowd. What is USSBA? was the most common question. We answered, and waved. Lots of us were trying to warm our brains back up, to be ready for our big moment.
And then the call came, and we RAN! We had been informed that we would have 60 seconds to get from the Quiet Zone to our performance spots, to be ready. A commercial break created that for us. We ran, and before we knew it, the music was going, and we were ON! The routine was created with moments for us to yell, shout and cheer, and we did. The energy was definitely flowing through the group as we did our thing in front of 65 million television viewers!
And before I knew it, it was over. We picked up our flags and ran across the ubiquitous green rectangle to the other side. Then, honestly, we just started to wander down the street. The shock and numbness was sinking in. At some point, we heard a drum line, and we started performing again. A few blocks later, it was all over but the pictures. We set ourselves up on the steps of the Post Office, and took our group pictures. Lots of smiles. And thanks to the wonder of cell phones, lots of members had already talked to their parents and found out what kind of shots there were of us on TV. We were all excited, and all thrilled that we could have been a part of it!