The 'best band in the land' shows its Illini pride in NYC and on social media

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  • The Marching Illini drum-line performs for fans in Grange Grove before the game.

  • The Marching Illini perform for the crowd before the game.

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By Abigale Svoboda

The Marching Illini will lead Santa through midtown Manhattan in the 89th Macy’s Day Parade on Thursday.

The band — which has been preparing for the parade for over a year now — will perform in the parade for the very first time in University history this Thanksgiving. Though this is the band’s first Thanksgiving march, the group is no stranger to big parades. In 2014, the Marching Illini traveled to Ireland to march in Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The band will march the 2.5 mile long parade route, appearing on NBC’s broadcast at 11:54 a.m. But the midday debut doesn’t mean a late morning for the Marching Illini.

Still, the 375-member band found time before curfew to perform in Times Square on Wednesday night.

Of course, band members were excited for the opportunity.

Barry Houser, director of the Marching Illini, displayed his enthusiasm about the performance on social media too. Houser was responsible for entering the band’s application and surprised the members with the announcement once it was accepted.

The Marching Illini are not alone in their excitement over the parade performance, though. The University, as well as individual colleges, showed their support for the group on social media.

The Marching Illini have had a lot of firsts since the band was formed in 1867. The current members of the band will be part of another first with the band’s debut Macy’s Day Parade performance.

And on the eve of the big march, the “best band in the land” filled Times Square with Illini pride Wednesday night.