Marching Illini makes Macy's Day Parade debut

By Dixita Limbachia

The Marching Illini performed one of their biggest shows ever to TV screens watched by over 65 million people — except instead of a football field, this time their stage was New York City when they performed at the 89th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The band was one of 12 bands chosen out of 175 applications in May 2014, and the occasion marks the first time in University history that the band has performed in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Approximately 3.5 million people crowded along the street during the parade as the various floats and performances passed by.

Their performance in front of the Macy’s store in Manhattan began with a rendition of “Blues for Santa” and they made their exit while performing the Illini fight song.

Barry L. Houser, Band Director of the Marching Illini, described the mood of the band the morning of the the parade.

“The atmosphere leading up to the parade was quite focused but full of energy as well,” said Houser. “The morning of the big day included a very early call time of 2 a.m., then 3 o’clock loading, (then at) 3:30 buses departed for a 4 a.m. report to Herald Square.”

In preparation for the parade, Houser said the 375 band members trained through additional performances and emphasized mental preparation. The Marching Illini practiced the parade route on the Memorial Stadium football field.

Amelia Mugavero, senior in Media and the Marching Illini’s feature twirler shared her excitement for the performance in an interview in November.

“I’ve watched the parade since I was a little girl and it’s a dream come true to be 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.

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.

In the aftermath of the parade, Houser said that the band has held a strong bond “but this trip has certainly brought the entire group closer together.”

Although the trip was centered around the parade, the band also had time to explore the city.

While in New York, the band started their visit with a trip to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in Battery Park. The Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Empire State building were also on the group’s agenda.

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