CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band will be enjoying one of the best things about Thanksgiving Day – going back for a second helping.
But in this case the 500-plus members of the WCU marching band won’t be fighting over who gets the last drumstick. Instead, they will be making a return trip to New York City to perform in the 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Macy’s Parade officials came to campus Friday, April 13, to surprise band members with news of the invitation to participate in the annual holiday event next year. The Pride of the Mountains previously was selected to lead the parade in 2014.
David Starnes, WCU director of athletic bands, had invited all members of the Pride of the Mountains to a mandatory full band meeting with Carol Burton, WCU’s acting provost, in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center. After a few introductory remarks from Burton, Wesley Whatley, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade creative producer, stepped out of hiding and into the room to deliver the invitation.
Whatley counted down to lead a cheer of “let’s have a parade,” unveiled a parade banner and presented a commemorative drum head to Starnes as a shower of confetti rained down upon the participants.
“On behalf of the band selection committee, Macy’s is incredibly proud to welcome back Western Carolina University to the streets of New York City,” said Whatley. “David Starnes runs a program known for its artistic storytelling, big sound and highly engaging field shows. The Macy’s Parade audience has a lot to look forward to when the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band returns to our parade in 2019.”
The return of the WCU unit to the parade represents an uncommon occurrence in the history of the event, Whatley said.
“Bands may only reapply for the Macy’s Parade five years after appearing in our event,” he said. “In most cases, it takes much longer for a group to receive another invitation, if at all. WCU is a rare case – delivering such a special combination of artistry and big university sound that the committee couldn’t resist welcoming them back as soon as possible after the band’s five-year hiatus.”
Starnes and other Pride of the Mountains staff members worked hard to try to ensure that the announcement was a surprise to all student band members, a task made trickier because most of the seniors in the unit participated in the event in 2014 and may have recognized Whatley.
“We are thrilled beyond belief to represent Western Carolina University and the great state of North Carolina in the 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” Starnes said. “This event is a life-changer for band students of all ages and, personally, continues to bring out the kid in me. The respect and admiration I have for this parade goes without saying, and we are deeply honored to have been selected for participation in 2019. As they say on parade day – let’s have a parade.”
Founded in 1924, the world-famous event attracts more than 3.5 million spectators lining the streets of New York, and 50 million at-home viewers. The world’s largest parade, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is televised nationally by NBC.
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