For nearly a month, very few people connected with the highly acclaimed Rosemount High School marching band knew about the stunning news that awaited the musicians.
Day after day at band practice, directors Ben Harloff, Leon Sieve and Bo Hoover kept up with their school day routine.
Then Tuesday curiosity and suspicion surged as band members gathered for an assembly that included Gov. Mark Dayton. Finally the metaphorical envelope was opened: The Rosemount High School marching band is heading to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2017.
It is Minnesota’s first representation in the legendary holiday festivity in nearly three decades.
Macy’s parade creative director Wes Whatley delivered the news in cliffhanger fashion, something he’s doing this spring for the 10 bands selected among the 175 that applied.
“It was so special that I got on a plane and I flew here to visit you in person because a phone call just wouldn’t do,” Whatley said. “Would you like to hear it?”
To which the band members, more than 200 in all, said, “Yeah!”
After playfully stretching out his lead-in comments, Whatley came through and declared: “The Rosemount marching band has been selected to represent the great state of Minnesota and perform in New York City in the 2017 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”
The confetti-dusted screams, cheers and applause were immediate.
“We are beyond excited to take our band members to New York City,” co-director Harloff said Wednesday. Minnesota last high school band to march in the Macy’s parade was from Forest Lake in 1989.
Macy’s sets a high bar for inclusion in its parade, requiring applicants to send in letters of recommendation, performance videos from recent years, and a résumé that includes accomplishments of the past 10 years.
It certainly helped that the Rosemount band performed in the Rose Parade in Pasadena in 2014. Harloff said the Macy’s and Rose parades are the biggest honors out there for school marching bands. Macy’s parade draws millions of people along the two-mile route, plus tens of millions more on national television.
Reaching further back in the time machine, Rosemount High School also marched and belted out tunes at the World Series in 1987 and 1991 at the Metrodome.
Harloff said “it was extremely hard” for him to not let on about the pending news after Macy’s notified him and a few others in the district in mid-March.
“The Macy’s organization likes to come to each school and give the news,” he said.
Unfortunately for the band’s current juniors and seniors, they’ll be marching into the next stage of the lives by the time the band beats a path to musical glory. But the lead time is crucial to allow the band to raise the money needed to make the trip, Harloff said.
“We’re going to have a lot of ninth-graders next year who are going to want to audition and will be fired up to make the trip,” Harloff said.