The Marching Illini prepares for the Macy's Day Parade

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Colleen Dempsey

The trumpet section gets warmed up before practice.

By Dixita Limbachia

By Dixita Limbachia

Staff writer

The Marching Illini has been preparing to lead Santa through midtown Manhattan for over a year now.

The band will perform in the 89th Macy’s Day Parade for the very first time in University history this Thanksgiving.

Barry Houser, director of athletic bands, said the application process began a few years ago.

Houser has been associated with Macy’s for six years and has been working with the Macy’s

Great American Marching Band, which is Macy’s official band — composed of two high school

students from each state.

Houser said a total of 175 bands in country applied and 12 were chosen to participate.

“I just really want to provide a very exciting opportunity for my students because I know how

great it is to do the parade, so I’m excited for them to experience New York,” Houser said.

“Most importantly representing our university campus.”

There will be about 68 million spectators watching the parade.

In preparation for the parade, Houser said the band trained through additional performances but he

emphasized mental preparation. The Marching Illini has discussed the route and practiced it on the football field.

Katie Zale, junior in Dance and Illinettes captain, said the big picture of the performance is important.

“It’s very exciting but also a little overwhelming, just to know the caliber of everything that is

happening,” she said. “We’ve been having high intensity practices at football games and extra performances

and just getting our name out there that we are the Marching Illini and we’re going to Macy’s for

this amazing event.”

“It’s going to be a wonderful experience. I love doing band and marching and I just love all the

people here, it’s a great family family to have,” said Jacob Ramsey, senior in Education and alto saxophone member of the Marching Illini.

Eddie Rashan, senior in LAS and snare drummer said he is absorbing each step at a time.

“When we first heard about it, it was crazy,” he said. “All of a sudden, Barry sends out ‘Hey

we have a little surprise.’ So we all went to the band room and, boom. they hit us with the news”

Rose Craig, senior in Music Education and drum major, said it’s surreal to give her last performance in front of millions of people.

“I’ve seen this band grow and Barry has done an amazing job and this just seems like a great reward” Craig said.

Amelia Mugavero, senior in Broadcasting Journalism and the Marching Illini’s feature twirler shared Craig’s excitement.

“I’ve watched the parade since I was a little girl and it’s a dream come true to a part of it and also to be a feature twirler for a college with the first college band ever to be established in the nation, there are no words to

describe the excitement and honor” Mugavero said.

Houser said he thinks the band represents the campus well, as its made up of students from a variety of academic disciplines and backgrounds.

“I just hope people catching us on TV will take great pride in our community at the University of

Illinois, pride in our institution and realize, ‘Hey that’s my school right there and they did us

proud.’”

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