For the first time in decades, millions of eyes will watch a Minnesota band in the prestigious Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday.
The Rosemount High School marching band will snake down the streets of New York City before hitting the big moment in the Herald Square star on Thanksgiving Day.
Rosemount High is the first Minnesota band in almost 30 years to make the parade's lineup. The honor comes after a string of national and regional acclaim for the marching band, including a spot at the Rose Parade in Pasadena in 2014. Rosemount, in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district, is one of 10 bands selected to make the Macy's appearance, beating out 175 other groups for the spot.
Nearly 300 Rosemount students will march in the parade.
"This is going to be a memory that they're going to remember forever," said Ben Harloff, one of the high school band directors who's on the trip.
The students and staff are already soaking up the once-in-a-lifetime visit to the Big Apple. Many have never been to New York. Some took their first plane ride to get there, assistant principal Kim Budde said in an e-mail.
The highlight of the week, of course, is the parade appearance. Thursday will be an early morning, kicked off with an on-site run-through at 4:10 a.m., Harloff said. Then breakfast, lineup and show time.
The parade broadcast will be delayed for each time zone, the high school posted Wednesday on Facebook, so viewers can plan to catch the Rosemount band on TV at 11:35 a.m.
After the parade, it's back to the hotel for rest and lunch. The holiday will culminate with Thanksgiving dinner in the hotel ballroom for everyone, including the 300 parents who made the trip to New York, Harloff said.
"It's going to be so emotional and incredibly special," he said. "A lot of people have worked really, really hard to make this happen."
A student "March-A-Thon" raised more than $20,000 in one day, he said. A fundraising committee raised more than $60,000.
The group of parents includes two band alumni. Kricket Ellison and Cara Pavek remember marching down the parade route for their Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade moments, with the Pipestone band in 1988 and Forest Lake in 1989, respectively.
Decades later, they are back to cheer on their sons, who are representing Minnesota in the parade for the first time since their schools' back-to-back appearances.
"It's kind of fun to come back here and experience the other side," Pavek said.
This fall has been a busy one for students, who were competing in the Bands of America's super regional championship.
The Thanksgiving Day Parade set will feature a tribute for Rosemount High School's 100th birthday and nods to the city's Irish heritage, Harloff said.
Karoline Buck of Rosemount took a trip to New York to see her daughter perform in the color guard. The band's parents are known as the "Sea of Gold," she said, because of their gold-colored accessories and jackets.
Parents have decided to group together in a couple locations along the parade to bring the Sea of Gold all the way to the Big Apple, she said. A crowd of gold-clad Rosemount folks were sighted in the crowd of NBC's "Today Show" on Wednesday.
Students used the days before the big performance to take in the city — including a visit to the 9/11 museum and a Broadway show.
"For the past few months, we've been so focused on the show, we haven't really processed until this week that we're in New York, and it's going to be on live television for millions of people," said drum major Caleb Maeda.