The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a spectacular holiday show that highlights high school and college bands from across the nation. This year, one of the country’s top Historically Black College/University (HBCU) bands—from Alabama—will be taking center stage on Thursday, November 23.
The Macy’s parade began in 1924, originally intended just to “boost holiday sales,” but quickly became a time-honored and grand tradition for many families to watch. The Alabama A&M University’s (AAMU) Marching Maroon & White band won a prized parade slot this year, along with 10 other schools.
“For nearly 100 years, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has selected the finest marching bands and performance groups representing every musical genre and marching style to perform in this beloved holiday celebration,” said Wesley Whatley, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade creative producer. “When it comes to entertaining audiences, no marching, step, or dance style delivers like HBCU bands and step groups. Their creative energy and showmanship bring an unmatched energy to the parade. This year, we are thrilled that Alabama A&M University will step into the spotlight and showcase their talent on a national stage for millions of viewers across the country this Thanksgiving.”
The marching band of Morgan State University (MSU) in Maryland was the first HBCU band to perform in the parade’s history, in 2019. This will be a first for AAMU.
AAMU is in Huntsville, Alabama. The school specializes in food science, engineering, education, and business degrees, said AAMU Assistant Vice President Aaron J. Thompson. Plenty of students are drawn to the school because of its outstanding band. The band is made up of about 250 band members, some of whom have music and academic scholarships. He said many of the students are traveling to the Big Apple for the first time and fully plan on taking advantage of exploring the city and networking events.
The band’s Dancing Divas will also be performing with the Radio City Rockettes, said Thompson.
“We know how big this parade is and how sought after this opportunity is for marching bands. It’s a great opportunity to represent the university, the state, and HBCUs as a whole. Exciting times all around,” said Thompson.
Band Director Carlton Wright has led the AAMUmarching band for the last 10 years and is an AAMU alum from Montgomery. He was watching the parade with his family when he was struck with the inspiration to fill out the Macy’s band application for a chance to perform in the parade. After a few months, he got the call that their band was chosen, he said. They started fundraising to make sure everyone could go and that every student contributed to the trip.
“The students are beyond excited,” said Wright. Although he couldn’t reveal the band’s song selection ahead of the show, he told Amsterdam News that they have a diverse set planned that will amaze all listeners, young and old.
The route for the parade is 2.5 miles long, kicking off at West 77th Street and Central Park West at 8:30 a.m and winding down to Macy’s at Herald Square. Early risers are encouraged to arrive by 6 a.m. on the west side of Central Park West from West 75th to West 61st Streets. There is no public viewing on Central Park West between West 59th and West 60th Streets, Central Park South, 6th and 7th Avenues, or at Herald Square, according to Macy’s.
In addition to the bands, the 2023 parade will feature 25 balloons, 6 “balloonicles,” 31 floats, 29 clown crews, seven performance groups, and 18 famous singers, including Bell Biv DeVoe, Brandy, Cher, En Vogue, Jon Batiste, and the a cappella group Pentatonix.
Macy’s said that next year’s parade will feature the 369th Experience, a Harlem Hellfighters reenactment band made up of HBCU and Puerto Rican students.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member who writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.