Wesley Whatley presents D-B Band Director Lafe Cook a drum head marking the band's invitation to the 2011 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. David Grace photo.
KINGSPORT — Freshman Dobyns-Bennett High School trumpet player Logan Vincent thought he was going to hear the percussion ensemble presentation when he and other band members were told to report to the band room second period Tuesday morning.
Instead, D-B band members and Director Lafe Cook got word that D-B has been chosen to march in the 2011 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
It is one of 10 programs among more than 150 applicants that won a spot in the parade.
“I thought they were doing the percussion ensemble for us until we got up here and Mr. Cook said he didn’t know, either,” said Vincent, 14.
About 300 students made the trek to the band room — mostly freshmen, sophomores and juniors since seniors were in ACT test preparation — to hear the announcement from Wesley Whatley, associate creative director of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and celebrate with multi-colored confetti provided by Whatley.
“We are thrilled that the Dobyns-Bennett High School Marching Band will be returning to the Macy’s Parade family in 2011,” Whatley said. “With their continued success and their spectacular musical and marching abilities, they will be a powerful presence in the lineup as they march through the streets of New York City in front of millions of spectators.”
The announcement was kept secret even from Cook, not just to surprise the D-B band members but to keep under wraps the identities of the eight bands yet to receive a surprise visit from Whatley.
Homewood High School Band in Homewood, Ala., was the first notified, followed by D-B Tuesday morning. The rest will find out before May 1, and Whatley wasn’t discussing any of his future travel plans.
“I’m very excited,” said Andrea Cunningham, a 15-year-old sophomore flute player who helped clean up the confetti after the announcement.
She visits New York often since her mother is from Brooklyn, but the 2011 parade will mark her first one there for attending or marching.
“I’ve never been to a parade in New York,” Cunningham said.
Cook said the “incredible experience” will give some students who otherwise would never get to New York a chance to go, not to mention marching and performing before a national audience.
He estimated the cost of the trip would be $250,000, which will mean more fruit sales, car washes, cookie dough sales and other fund-raisers. He said the community has been very supportive of those fund-raisers and hopes that will continue.
“What an honor this is for our community, our school, and most importantly, our dedicated and talented students,” D-B Principal Lenore Kilgore said. “We thank our band instructors, Mr. Ryan Gilbert, Mr. Jason Walsh, Mr. Ross Bader, and our band director Mr. Lafe Cook. We are so proud of your accomplishment and look forward to your performance.”
Whatley cited the D-B band’s superior musical ability, marching and performance skills.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade takes more than a year to plan, with bands chosen more than 18 months before their parade step-off. Each band application is thoroughly reviewed by the Macy’s Parade Band Committee, which looks for bands that not only have great musical and marching ability, but also will be able to perform on the national stage and entertain.
D-B’s 2011 performance will mark the fifth one. It previously appeared in the 1984, 1988, 1993 and 2004 editions of the parade.
The parade started in 1924, was first televised in 1948, and had its first color telecast in 1954.
It marks the official start of the holiday season in New York. The parade goes down a more than two-mile route with more than 8,000 participants in tow including Macy’s employees, their families, celebrities, athletes, clowns and dance groups spreading holiday cheer.
The event draws an NBC television audience of approximately 50 million viewers across the country, and more than 3.5 million spectators line up along the streets of New York City each year to watch.
It features floats and Macy’s signature giant helium character balloons, but Whatley said the parade’s musical heart comes from its high school and college marching bands.