ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — In the midst of the millions of people who will be lining the streets of New York City, a sea of black and orange will proudly play a performance they have been working towards for more than a year.
Rockford High School’s marching band will be one of seven high school bands to march in the 91st annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“They’re ready. They’re ready mentally, they’re ready physically,” band director Brian Phillips said about his students. “We just have to put a few more finishing touches to it and we’ll be good to go.”
Rockford was chosen out of 175 high school marching bands across the country as one of seven to perform in the 2017 parade. They are the first from West Michigan to join the parade’s rich history and only the third from the state.
“I was thinking as it got closer it would feel more real to me,” junior drum major Britney Nicholson said before the bands final rehearsal at Rockford. “It still doesn’t feel real to me actually.”
It will be as real as it gets for all 308 Rockford students when the parade kicks off at 9 a.m. on WOOD TV8 Thanksgiving morning.
“I would watched other bands perform and saw what they did and said, ‘yes, we’ll put that together,’” Phillips said. “Then we started talking with our designers and said, ‘wow, there’s a lot more to this than we had really thought.’”
Phillips worked with their design team to collaborate a performance unlike the state marching band champions had ever done.
Even harder for the students is keeping that performance a secret. They say it’s the rules of the parade: what’s seen on TV can’t been seen by anyone outside of the band before it hits the national airwaves.
“It’s actually pretty hard. It’s harder than I thought it would be because as I’ve seen it come to life,” Nicholson said. “I want to talk more and more about it because to me it’s so exciting to see everything come together. I’m excited that now I don’t have to keep it so much of a secret because we’re going there and it’s going to be put on.”
Phillips was very tight lipped about what the millions of people will see from the Rams, but gave about all he could about the performance.
“When we hit 34th Street, our theme is “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” While I can’t go into too much detail, our overall theme is the holiday tradition of trimming a Christmas tree,” Phillips said. “That’s what we’ll visually give you.”
Phillips touted the support from the community. The band started a fundraiser to try and reach its $500,000 goal — the cost to bring such a large band to New York City.
He acknowledged they never imagined being able to fund raise that much money, but said the $100,000 they were able to receive is a huge relief for those heading to the parade.
“The community has been really supportive. We really couldn’t ask for more,” Phillips said. “Parents, students, just general community members have stepped up to help out. Both financially and with helping hands whenever we needed it with different things.”
There are nearly 1,100 people traveling from Rockford to New York City for the parade — from band members to staff, chaperones, friends and family. They will spend Thanksgiving morning like the millions at home, watching the magic of Macy’s march through the streets.
“This is one of the pinnacles. It really is,” Phillips said with a smile. “There’s not much more that you can present your students than being in NYC for the Thanksgiving parade. It’s just something that they will be able to see on TV for years to come and say I did that.”