Four locals to join band at Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

  • The 535-member Pride of the Mountains Marching Band from Western Carolina University is one of only two collegiate bands invited to participate in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It will be the band’s second appearance in the parade in five years.
    The 535-member Pride of the Mountains Marching Band from Western Carolina University is one of only two collegiate bands invited to participate in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It will be the band’s second appearance in the parade in five years.
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    Cullowhee – Once again this year, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will include Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, with four Cherokee County natives along for the historic experience.
    The band will make its second appearance in the parade in five years during the 93rd installment Thursday, Nov. 28, live on NBC. The Catamounts will be in New York for a week starting Saturday, Nov. 23.
    Murphy High School graduates Robert Ledford, Jesse Pratt and Jonathan Wheaton – along with Andrews High School graduate Hannah McCaw – will be part of the festivities. The 535-member Western Carolina band is one of only two collegiate bands invited to participate.
    “The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is something I always loved watching with family when I was younger. However, I never thought that I would be afforded the opportunity to do such a thing,” Pratt said Monday. “I really think 8-year-old me would have idolized current me for being able to do something so cool.”
    McCaw said watching the parade wasn’t a tradition in her house growing up, but she did think it was cool when Western Carolina’s band was in it a few years ago.
    “I have never been to New York, but I hope for the experience to be as magical as my favorite New York-based Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street,” she said.
    Pratt, who like McCaw graduated from high school in 2018, also was excited about the New York trip, expecting it to be crowded.
    “The Macy’s Parade is essentially the ultimate parade venue to me. This is generally because of its exclusivity and the amount of people that watch the event,” Pratt said. “So as a college musician, it’s going to be quite an incredible experience.”
    Wheaton also has never been to New York and is excited for the experience of a lifetime.
    “Growing up, my family has always watched the parade on Thanksgiving Day,” Wheaton said. “I never thought I would be given the opportunity to participate in something this special, this is definitely something I’ve always wanted to do.”
    The parade is more than a road trip for these students, said David Starnes, Western Carolina’s director of athletic bands and assistant professor of music. It’s a three-hour, prime-time public relations campaign.
    “Kids see us on television and they say, ‘Who is Western Carolina University?’ and it’s a big draw for the university,” he said.
    The trip’s big three expenses – hotel, food and travel – will cost close to $400,000, with another $350,000 in additional expenses for events and other experiential learning activities during the band’s six days in New York. Neither the band nor the university makes money from appearing in the parade, Starnes said.
    “Every group that goes to the Macy’s parade is pretty much on their own as far as how they get there and how they pay for it,” he said. “And you don’t get paid to march in the parade. That’s another thing that people have asked me many times over the last year or so, ‘How much money does Macy’s pay you to be in the parade?’
    “You don’t make anything. It’s all out-of-pocket, and the only paycheck you get is Thanksgiving morning when you’re on TV for millions of people.”
    McCaw said this experience is not one every college musician has in their lifetime.
    “I know with certainty that they don’t just let any band march in, arguably, the biggest parade in American tradition, and I am most honored to be a part of it,” she said.
    For details on how to support Western Carolina’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, visit the website givemacys.wcu.edu.