Fayette County

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School band members brave the cold to perform in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Sabrina Bernardo, a senior , in formation with the flags as the Dunbar High school band rehearsed for the Macy's Thanksgiving parade on Thursday November 20, 2014  in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Sabrina Bernardo, a senior , in formation with the flags as the Dunbar High school band rehearsed for the Macy's Thanksgiving parade on Thursday November 20, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

Every year, 50 million people tune in to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with its giant balloons, performers and, of course, the beloved Tom Turkey float.

This year, Lexingtonians might see some familiar faces in the midst of those iconic characters.

The Paul Laurence Dunbar High School marching band will be one of 11 marching bands performing in the parade.

Band Director Jeff Hood said the band is expected to appear on NBC's broadcast of the parade at 10:58 a.m.

The band's 186 students practiced four days a week after school to get ready for the performance. While Hood was tight-lipped about what the band will perform for the television audience, he said a Kentucky theme, including My Old Kentucky Home, will be played for the estimated 3.5 million people who line the 2.5-mile parade route.

"Everyone's going to know where we're from," he said.

The band has been preparing for this since April 2013, when a Macy's representative made a surprise visit to a band concert to announce that the band's application — which included video, an audio recording and letters of recommendation — had been accepted.

"Even the governor wrote a recommendation, and even the mayor," Hood said.

The last time the band performed in the parade was 2007.

A caravan of seven charter buses (five for the students and two more for family and friends) traveled to New York City on Sunday afternoon.

Before their parade performance, the students are experiencing New York as tourists, taking in a Broadway show; visiting Radio City Music Hall, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building; and shopping.

Hope Vain, a sophomore member of the color guard, said she was especially excited about shopping in New York on Black Friday. But the once-in-a-lifetime experience of marching in the parade tops even that.

"I've never been to New York," she said. "I haven't been in a parade ever, so I'm real excited to march in one."

She and senior tuba player John Phillips said they will have hand-warmers in their gloves and as many layers on as they can get away with for the big performance. Forecasts call for temperatures to be in the low 30s at parade time.

Hope plans to wear as many as three pairs of socks for the Thanksgiving Day performance, she said, and John wore six layers while practicing in 22-degree weather on Nov. 18, he said.

"It's just a lot of hard work and cold," he said, adding that being in the parade made it worthwhile.

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