Mona Shield Payne
Published Friday, April 12, 2013 | 1:30 p.m.
Updated Friday, April 12, 2013 | 2:16 p.m.
Footing the bill
Foothill High School must raise about $500,000 over the next 18 months for its marching band to travel to New York City to participate in the 2014 Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
While all the travel arrangements have not been figured out yet, Foothill band director Travis Pardee estimates it will cost at least $2,500 per student to make the 2,300-mile trip to New York.
He hopes the students – many of whom have never been to New York City – will have an opportunity to experience the city's shows, museums and attractions after their performance.
Anyone interested in donating to the school's marching band may call 799-3500, extension 4040.
Each Thanksgiving Day for as long as he could remember, Nicolas Zelidon would tune into the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on television to watch the great spectacle unfold.
Gigantic balloons, big-name celebrities and flashy marching bands from across the country all marching the two-and-a-half miles in the heart of New York City in celebration of the most American of holidays: Thanksgiving.
The 16-year-old Foothill High School sophomore would watch the parade but never thought in a million years he would ever march in it.
So when Zelidon – a trombonist – arrived at school Friday morning for what was supposed to be a regular band practice, he couldn't have imagined it would end in a confetti-filled surprise.
The Foothill High School marching band is heading to the Big Apple on November 27, 2014 to participate in the 88th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The 250-member marching band is just one of 10 marching bands from across the world selected to participate in America's largest parade, which attracts 3.5 million spectators and 50 million television viewers each year.
Started in 1924 by Macy's department store employees, the annual parade has always featured the best marching bands from across the country. Nevada has been represented three times in the parade over the past three decades, the most recent being Green Valley High School's marching band in 2010.
"We try to find the absolute best," said Amy Kule, executive producer of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, who flew in Thursday night from New York to break the news to Foothill High School students on Friday. "Foothill really just blew (the competition) out of the water."
More than 175 marching bands from around the world submitted applications to participate in the parade, which considers marching bands to be at the soul of the holiday tradition. While the parade is known for its big balloons, marching bands have always been a parade staple from the beginning, said Wesley Whatley, creative director of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
To be considered for the prestigious honor, high school, colleges and specialty marching bands all had to submit video footage of their field and parade routines as well as a resume of awards and several letters of recommendation.
Foothill High School, which has the largest marching band in the state, regularly receives the top "superior" scores in band competitions and was the first Nevada band to place in the finals of the prestigious Bands of America regional championships.
The school’s band also has traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the National Memorial Day Parade and Dublin, Ireland, to march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade.
A committee of eight Macy's employees with professional music training and experience reviewed all of the applications over the course of a month and selected 10 bands, which demonstrated the best music, routines and the most spirit.
The selected bands represent a wide cross-section of the nation, Whatley said. There are high school and college bands, ranging from 125 members to more than 400 members, and even one international band.
Parade organizers are now going around the country to break the good news to the selected schools. Earlier this week, the American Fork High School's marching band from Salt Lake City was announced as a fellow performer.
Travis Pardee, who is one of three Foothill High School marching band directors, said he found out about the news about a month ago. Macy's parade organizers swore him to secrecy however, a tough mandate in the nation's fifth-largest school district.
Pardee told his assistant and secretary. The principal came much later, he said. Foothill staff were only told Thursday that their school would march in the parade.
"It was difficult to keep this under wraps," Pardee said, smiling. "I may have told my wife."
Pardee, who has never visited New York, could hardly contain his excitement on Friday as he welcomed parade officials to his Henderson school. Marching in the Macy's parade will be a "positive life-changing experience" – something he's wanted for his students since he started directing the program a decade ago, he said.
After a few warm-up exercises and a rallying rendition of Foothill's fight song, Pardee introduced Kule and Whatley to his students.
It was bright and early, but there was no yawning from any of the marching band and color guard members assembled in the school theater.
"I'm here to share a little bit of news with you. Do you want to hear it?" Whatley told the eager crowd, which responded in a resounding "Yes!"
"That's fine," Whatley replied. "We'll get there."
Whatley explained that he flew in from New York City the night before bearing special news:
"It's my opinion that Foothill High School is doing it right," Whatley said. "It's with great pride and pleasure that Foothill's marching band will represent the great state of Nevada in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!"
The auditorium erupted in cheers and radiant smiles. Some students reacted with gasps. One student seemed to be on the verge of tears.
Kule trotted out a banner and a special drum cover emblazoned with the Macy's parade logo. Over the next 18 months, these mementos will serve as a reminder to keep practicing and fundraising for the big day in 2014.
New York in November will be cold, Kule warned the students. They'll have just 10 minutes of practice at 3 a.m. on the day of the parade. Afterward, the band will walk 2.5 miles through central Manhattan, performing before millions of audience members.
It'll be worth it, however, Kule said.
"This is a huge honor for these kids who will have a lifetime of memories," she said.
For Zelidon, the trip to New York will be one for the memories.
"This was very shocking and exhilarating," he said after the surprise announcement. "It's going to be cold, but it'll be a blast. I'll enjoy it so much."