So fellow travelers the epic journey of our trip to watch the Baldwinsville Marching Band in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade continues….
An enhanced snap from Pete’s phone of me slogging through a cold, rainy Nor’Easter swept Times Square
Finding a good meal when traveling with my Would Be Perfect husband is a challenge. As willing as he is to travel he is a picky eater, a trait he has held from childhood. The details are unnecessary here, but it means I do a fair amount of advance research on restaurants when traveling. The problem was we had ended up in a different part of the city than originally planned, so by the time we did find a place agreeable to him, ate our meal and arrived back at the hotel we were thoroughly exhausted.
So I should have slept for more than a few hours but I woke just after midnight, restless and unable to fall back to sleep. I was aware the kids would be waking up soon ( honestly I doubted our daughter had even gone to sleep at all ) to prepare for their early morning ( as in 3am early ) rehearsal time in Herald Square. I checked my phone but saw no recent messages.
When on the road, the band’s coordinator keeps all parents updated of their activities via a group text message. It’s a mark of how well run an organization these kids are part of. So far we knew they had made great time on the drive down two days ago, spent their first day in the city at the 911 memorial and Times Square, eaten dinner at Buca Di Beppo, then were treated to the Rockettes’ Christmas show. Their second day they took a rather wet excursion out to the Statue of Liberty and then, due to the weather, changed itinerary. Instead of going uptown to the Hayden Planetarium for the afternoon, they headed back to their hotel which was in New Jersey to dry off, grab an early dinner, run a few practice drills and retire early to rest for that 3am rehearsal slot.
Many of the parents who had traveled to New York City to see the kids in the parade also set up a group text to keep in touch. As I’ve written before, the majority of the band parents become a kind of extended family. It takes a small army to stage the field shows, from the soup kitchen moms who coordinate and serve an entirely donated hot lunch on show days, uniform/flag volunteers who keep the uniforms clean and sharp, make costumes and do emergency repairs on the fly and the pit crew of dads and moms ( of which I am one) who build sets and props then load them on and off the trailer and haul them on and off the field for every rehearsal and show through the whole season. Staging parades is not as involved, but parents still come out to show their support whether in the brutal humidity of the Great New York State Fair
or the frigid cold of the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade which routinely coincides with the coldest Saturday in March
The parents’ plan was to meet at various locations along the parade route, wear something red and bring small signs so the kids would have support along the entire route right up to the “silent zone” a few blocks before Herald Square, beyond which only VIP passes would grant admission. With the majority of parents visiting the city for the first time, the logistics of navigating the subways and determining when and where to meet on the parade route would have been daunting without the input and assistance from a few seasoned downstate travelers. Being one of the those who knew the city fairly well, I kept a close eye on the group messages so I could respond to questions and help folks get around. Yes there’s an ap for that, still inside info from someone on the ground is always beneficial.
Several families were staying in hotels near Herald Square where blocks of rooms had been reserved at incredibly affordable rates ( especially for the week of Thanksgiving ) thanks to some advance planning and excellent negotiating by the band’s activity coordinator. In order to be on time for their assigned rehearsal time at 3am the kids would have to be up at 1am, pack and check out of their rooms, move all their luggage to two conference rooms (one for boys, one for girls) load all instruments and equipment, dress in full uniform and board the buses to head for Herald Square.
(photo from one of the band staff captioned “The Band has left the Building”)
I dozed off until messages began to pop up from parents who could hear the bands beginning to rehearse in Herald Square. By the time 3am arrived, I was wide awake, following both the parent and band group messages. Rehearsal must have gone well; they only needed two run throughs to get the OK that they hit all their marks. Staff posted a few photos….
and then messaged that everyone would load back on the bus to rest until breakfast scheduled for 5am at the Hard Rock Cafe.
By 5am I was dressed and headed out to scout for viewing locations. In the past year of shooting photos of the band in various parades, I learned if it was not possible to be on the street in front of the band (as in the St. Patrick’s Parade photo above) it was preferable to shoot from a corner where they made a turn, to get an angled shot of each line as they went by (refer to the shot above from the State Fair.) I knew we would not be able to get shots out in the street, so our group was planning to meet at Columbus Circle where I knew the parade would have to make a turn at the southwest corner of Central Park as it headed along 59th street before heading down 6th avenue. So I had opted to book a hotel a few blocks from Columbus Circle rather than down towards Herald Square.
The night we arrived, I had noticed bleachers set up along the Central Park side of the turn.
Some parents were planning to meet at the bleachers, as they had been told the seating was open to the public, first come first serve. However I was almost certain these would be ticketed seating. something the crews working on location confirmed when I showed up at 5:15am.
So I spoke with a few NYPD officers who were setting up various barricades along 59th Avenue, east of Columbus Circle. At first they wanted to direct me out of the area until I explained we had traveled from Upstate New York to see our kids march in parade. They were quite enthusiastic in their response. Most of them said they couldn’t recall the last time a NY State High School Band was in the parade. (It has in fact been 2o years since a NYHS was in the parade, and Baldwinsville also had the distinction of being the first band from Upstate NY to perform in the parade since it began in 1924.) The officers asked several times for the band’s name and school colors and said they would be sure to tell their reserve section to cheer for the kids. (They made good on their promise; several of the kids mentioned hearing loud cheering from the off duty NYPD delegation and their families who were lined up in front of Trump Hotel at 1 Central Park West .)
My helpful NYPD friends confirmed the bleachers at Columbus Circle were indeed ticketed seating only, as would be most of the standing areas along both sides of 59th Ave and Central Park South. They advised picking one of the blocks just north of Columbus Circle, on either side of the street which they assured me would all be open to the public. So I sent out a message to the parent group text and headed in that direction. As I crossed the still empty and silent street and looked north up Central Park West I had to catch my breath as my heart skipped a beat in anticipation. Soon, very soon our kids would be marching down this very street making history.
(To be continued)