Just about the entire country had the opportunity to see the Morris Community High School Marching Redskins at their best Thursday morning.
The band had the honor of participating in the McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade down State Street in Chicago, broadcast live on WGN – a channel that is part of most cable and satellite packages.
Several of the band kids said they had relatives and family friends from all over watch them march. Senior trumpeter Chris Harri said his Iowa grandparents got to see him march with the band for the first time. It was a good experience being a part of the parade, Chris said.
“It went really great,” he said, “except the fact that we had to get up at four in the morning. It was really cool. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Chris said it was the biggest parade he has ever marched in, and he has been in the band all four years and in middle school before that. It was even fun before the parade started.
Even though the band had more than two hours to wait between check-in time and the parade, they and another band next to them played back-and-forth to each other and even had a bit of a percussion cadence duel.
They began their part in the parade around 9:30 a.m., but the pace was more than a bit faster than other parades in which the band had marched before.
“We felt like we were almost running,” Chris said. “You could hardly call it marching.”
Marching Redskins Director Don Stinson said they were told to keep no more than 20 feet between the band and the float in front of them, and that did mean marching quite faster than planned.
“They wanted us to go pretty fast,” he said. “We had to book it. We could hardly keep up with the float in front of us.”
To add to the experience, Stinson said right before they were on camera, he got too close to the color guard and got smacked in the face with a flag pole. It hurt pretty badly, he said, but he got off lightly compared to some directors he has heard about.
One of his friends was paying too much attention to directing the band during a parade and not enough to where he was going and walked hard into a light post. He broke his nose, Stinson said.
Fortunately, most everything went smoothly Thursday, and the band played to roaring crowds. The Thanksgiving Day Parade is a strong tradition in Chicago, and the mild temperatures brought even more out to watch it. Many of the bands were from Illinois, but Stinson said he also saw high school bands from Tennessee, Washington, D.C., Florida, and Delaware.
It’s one of four nationally-televised Thanksgiving parades in the country, he said, and the second most popular, just behind the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Between the crowd and the float in front of him, Stinson said some of the band members found it almost impossible to hear the cadence of the drums to keep the beat. Chris said his section could hear the drums, but he heard the flutes had a lot more difficulty.
You couldn’t tell it from the televised performance, though. The approximately 100 members of the band who were able to attend (of a total of 112 members) put on a great show.
The song Stinson arranged for them was “Sleigh Bells.” They had serenaded the neighborhood around the high school with the Christmas song a few weeks beforehand, practicing in the parking lot during class times.
“I thought it was a great experience for the kids,” Stinson said. “They performed very well in front of one of their largest audiences.”
Stinson said the last time the Marching Redskins received that kind of recognition was in 2005, when they marched in the same parade.
To watch the band in the parade, visit http://www.wgntv.com/lifestyle/holiday/thanksgivingparade/ and click on the thumbnail that reads, “Morris Community High School Marching Redskins.”