Parent: Trip to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is ‘priceless’
The Marching Firebirds officially began their season last week with band camp.
Overall, the 273-member group from Lakota West High School will put in more than 100 hours of practice this month before a fall full of evening practice sessions, football games and competitions kicks off. The season will then culminate with a performance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on Nov. 28.
Every year, the Cassidy family spends Thanksgiving morning glued to the tube. Watching the parade in person is actually on Tim and Lisa Cassidy’s bucket list. This year, they will be able to cross it off.
The Liberty Township parents will see their daughter, Kelsey, perform as the senior captain of the color guard at Lakota West.
“My family has watched every Macy’s Parade since I was very little. It is almost impossible to fathom that I am going to be on that screen,” Kelsey said.Seven high school bands will participate in the parade this year, chosen from among the 150 bands across the country that applied for the honor more than two years ago. In that application, Lakota West had to provide multiple videos of performances and include recommendations.
“When we applied, the current sophomores were eighth-graders and the juniors were ninth-graders. They had zero to do with us getting into the parade,” said Greg Snyder, Lakota West’s band director. “Because of the hard work of the bands before them, they get to have this opportunity.”
That opportunity comes with a price tag of well over a quarter of a million dollars. With the school district not contributing to the trip, the money is being raised or earned by the high schoolers themselves. Sousaphone player Bennett Mylius has been saving portions of his paychecks from working at Hot Head Burritos; clarinet player Mia Kern has been saving as much as she can from her job at Perkins, where she spends her weekends while not practicing with her bandmates.
Despite those efforts, much of the money needed to take this trip is coming out of their parents’ checkbooks.
Overall, the trip, which includes five days worth of activities in the nation’s most populous city, will cost $1,050 for each band member, although through their local fundraising efforts, the cost will likely be closer to $950 per participant when all is said and done.
That hefty price tag isn’t the only cost associated with being in the band. Each member must pay a $550 participation fee that pays for band camp, staff, musical rights, buses and other costs of the band season. Parents estimate throughout the school year that they will pay $2,000 to $3,000 per child in the program this year.
Malinda Anderson, who has had six children participate in the program, is very familiar with the fees. Two of those six are currently in the marching band; she also has another on the way in the seventh grade.
“I love band,” Anderson said. “It really teaches the kids how to work with and how to communicate with different types of people. It also teaches them leadership skills. I feel that it works their brain and ultimately helps them in the classroom.”
Anderson sees great value in the trip and estimates that it would cost at least $5,000 to $8,000 for her family to spend a vacation in New York City.
“There is no way we could afford that,” Anderson said. “For my kids to have the opportunity to see something that they wouldn’t be able to see is just priceless. It will definitely be a proud parent moment.”
In 2008, Lakota West parents and alumni had another proud moment when the band became the first from Southwest Ohio to perform in the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif. This year, Lakota West will be the only band from Ohio to perform in either parade.
The last time a local band performed at Macy’s was Turpin High School in 2002.
“The Rose Bowl Parade and Macy’s are among the biggest parades in the world,” Snyder said. “To be in both parades, and I believe we are the only band from Cincinnati to do so, is very significant.”