By Lee Howard
Marching bands can take their pick from a calendar of events and participate in some of the country’s biggest parades — if their application is successful. From New Year’s Day’s Rose Parade in sunny California to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade toward the end of the year, here are some events to aim for.
“The Rose Parade is the pinnacle for band members,” said Mike Matthiessen, the 2016 president of the Tournament of Roses. “It is like a national championship for them. This is their Super Bowl.”
Bands have been marching as part America’s New Year celebration since the 1890s and for 2016’s Find Your Adventure themed parade, 20 bands will march 5 1/2- miles in front of six to seven thousand people on the streets of Pasadena and several million tuned in at home. For a chance to play at the tournament’s Bandfest and take part in the 2018 parade alongside 45 floral decorated floats and 15 equestrian units, the application process begins in early March 2016.
“We’re looking for uniqueness maybe in the sound or the way a band marches, but it could also be because of their region and what they bring to the parade in terms of variety,” Matthiessen said.
“We say that anyone who performs at Disney Performing Arts is a Disneyland entertainment cast member for that day,” said Ben Goodner, manager at Disney Performing Arts. “We hold them to Disney’s high standards of performance and we want the uniform look, in step marching and that little something extra, that sprinkle of Disney magic our guests clap for.”
Bands of at least 50 members apply with an audition video and are accepted at least six weeks out. They get a chance to perform in front of a captive audience waiting for regularly scheduled Disney parades to begin at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. There are also educational opportunities such as instrumental workshops for bands to record scores to Disney movies. Plus, discounted entry into one or both Disneyland Resort parks is also an option.
Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Because of its traditionally large Irish population, Chicago holds one of the biggest St Patrick’s Day parades in the country, honoring the Emerald Isle and its primary patron saint. Be prepared for plenty of green, from the dyeing of the Chicago River in the morning to the rain or shine parade’s colorful floats, flags and bands marching along Columbus Drive through Grant Park. The Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which first began in 1955, lasts three hours and passes in front of over 500,000 revelers. Applications are live from September each year for the following year’s parade and bands are under no pressure to dress up in something green at the entry stage or on the day itself.
“The entries go through a committee and they don’t have to wear green, but if they create some type of uniform that is St Patrick’s Day festive, then we love it!” said parade marketing director Michele Scaccia-Coyne.
Cheyenne Frontier Days Grand Parade
Bands can participate in one to four parades at the Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration held in the last full week of July. The largest parades are held on two consecutive Saturdays.
“We have had a formal parade since 1926 for our Western celebration,” said Jimmy Dean Siler, parades chairman. “Before that they had a parade that usually involved a bunch of cowboys riding up and down the street whooping and hollering and shooting their guns!”
Nowadays, bands march 1 1/2-miles through Cheyenne’s historic downtown area along with one of the largest wagon and carriage collections in the United States. Bands are encouraged to apply online early in 2016 for that year’s parade, with a deadline of 1 February.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
New York City
It’s slightly surreal, but definitely unforgettable to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s giant inflatables up close, a feature since 1927. Imagine marching between them in the middle of the action, watched by over 50 million viewers on television and over three million on the streets of New York. Applications for the 2017 parade should be submitted by March 1, 2016.
“All levels of marching bands — amateur and professional, secondary school and university music programs are all welcome to apply,” said Wesley Whatley, creative director for the parade. “Macy’s Band Selection Committee looks for video applications that are full of excitement and pageantry!”