Lac qui Parle Valley, New London-Spicer music teachers celebrate Thanksgiving in Macy’s parade – West Central Tribune

todayDecember 2, 2023 4

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— When

New London-Spicer Public Schools

band director Caitlin Becks decided to learn how to play the flute and piccolo in middle school, it was because she dreamed of one day marching in a parade.

While she never got the chance growing up in


, on Thanksgiving Day she joined

Lac qui Parle Valley Public Schools

music teacher Nichole Markworth and around 400 fellow band and music teachers from across the country in marching in the biggest parade of the year — the

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade


“This was a little girl’s dream coming true,” Becks said. “I finally got to march in a parade and it just happened to be the Macy’s Parade.”

Caitlin Becks had always dreamed of marching in a parade band. She got her chance on Thanksgiving as one of 400 members of the Band Directors Marching Band in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Contributed / Caitlin Becks

Both Becks and Markworth applied to be part of the Band Directors Marching Band from

Saluting America’s Band Directors

, after seeing a social media post on the opportunity. Of the more than 900 applicants, Becks and Markworth joined around 400 selected to join the band and travel to New York City last week for the parade.

“It was wonderful. I don’t think words can describe the feeling of being there with everybody,” Markworth said.

Their New York adventure began on Nov. 19, when the entire band came together and rehearsed for the very first time. No one quite knew what that first practice would be like, but it soon became clear this band was something special.

“It was amazing from that first note to the last. With this group, it was a wall of sound,” Becks said. “It was so exciting to hear all this talent and passion in one room.”

Nichole Markworth NYC skyline.jpg

Lac qui Parle Valley music teacher Nichole Markworth poses in front of the New York City skyline. The marching band practiced on a football field in Weehawken, New Jersey, across the river from the city prior to the big parade.

Contributed / Nichole Markworth

Markworth was also excited about how the band sounded and to be a part of it.

“It was quite an experience to just be with 400 other people who have the same passion and desire I do to excel and do well in music,” Markworth said.

Throughout the four days before the parade, the band members practiced a lot. They practiced both indoors and for two days outdoors at a football field in Weehawken, New Jersey, with the New York City skyline as a backdrop.

“It was very early and very cold,” Becks said of the outdoor practices.

During one of those outdoor practices, a camera crew from “Fox and Friends” came to take video to air on television.

“That was neat to see the TV side of a news broadcast,” Markworth said.

The band didn’t keep to themselves while in New York. On Monday, Nov. 20, the band was given the humbling honor to perform at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. The band lay a wreath and played three songs — “Amazing Grace,” “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a version of taps.

“It was very moving and very emotional for a lot of us,” Becks said.

Markworth said it was humbling to perform in such a place, not knowing if family members of the victims or even those who experienced the Sept. 11 terror attacks in person might have been listening.

“You felt very honored and humbled to even be in that space,” Markworth said.

9-11 Memorial.jpg

The National September 11 Memorial, where the Band Directors Marching Band lay a wreath and played a trio of songs on Nov. 20, 2023.

Contributed / Caitlin Becks

Band members were also able to take in the sights and sounds of New York City. As a group they saw the Radio City Rockettes.

Becks also went to the top of the Rockefeller Center building and attended a performance of the Broadway show “Six.” Markworth also took in a few shows, seeing “Aladdin” and “Wicked.”

The main event, of course, was the Macy’s Parade. It was definitely a long day for the marchers, as they loaded the buses to head down to the parade route at 1:45 a.m. Thursday.

By 3 a.m. the band was rehearsing, including with the camera crews from NBC, giving those living in apartments above the street a very early morning show.

“Quite the wake-up call for sure,” Markworth said.

Band early morning Thursday with Caitlin.jpg

It was an early wake-up call Thanksgiving Day for the members of the Band Directors Marching Band. The band was rehearsing on the streets of New York City by 3 a.m. that morning.

Contributed / Caitlin Becks

After a breakfast at Dallas BBQ, the entire band went to their line-up spot for the parade, a few hours before showtime. While there was a lot of standing around prior to the parade, there was also plenty to see.

All around the band were other parade participants, including the famous balloons and casts from Broadway shows. Late night host and comedian Jimmy Fallon walked by at one point, Markworth said.

“There was a lot of activity,” Markworth said.

Then it was finally time. At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, the 97th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade set off from West 77th Street and Central Park West, headed toward Columbus Circle, Sixth Avenue and to Macy’s Herald Square.

“The step-off was awesome. The countdown was very exciting,” Becks said.

NBC announced that 28.5 million people tuned into the parade on television or Peacock, the network’s streaming application. Marching down the parade route, Markworth said she really became aware of how massive it all is.

“You could see how deep the crowd really was,” Markworth said. There was an estimated 3.5 million people lining the parade route. “It was quite the experience.”

The Band Directors Marching Band was placed behind the Jolly Green Giant float and the cast of the musical “Shucked.” After marching and playing down the 2.5-mile parade route, the band marched into Herald Square and onto the nation’s television screens.

Screenshot of band NBC broadcast.jpg

The Band Directors Marching Band marches its way into Herald Square at the end of the Macy’s parade route. Screenshot from NBC broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Screenshot / NBC

“It felt amazing,” Becks said. “It was so big.”

After the parade the marching band had one last special moment before it broke apart and its members began their travels home. On the steps of the historic New York City Post Office, the band took one last photo and played “Amazing Grace.”

“Just hearing the music echo through the city streets was so incredible,” Markworth said.

For both Becks and Markworth, being part of the Band Directors Marching Band was a huge honor and an amazing experience. Not only did they get to march in one of the most famous parades, but were also able to meet and learn from other music teachers from across the nation.

“I am so honored I was selected for it,” Becks said. “It was a huge honor.”

Markworth said being part of the band also proves just how far a person can go in life, no matter their background or where they are from.

“You don’t have to come from a big city or a big school to do something great in your life,” Markworth said. “You can do great things coming from rural Minnesota.”

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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