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It takes a lot of planning for a band to march in Macy's parade

AMERICAN FORK — It takes more than sheer musical talent and hard months of serious practice to put a high school marching band on the street for the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

It also takes two nurses, six airplanes, a semi-tractor trailer truck, a fleet of tour buses and more than $450,000 along with dozens of expensive instruments, 300 white feather plumes, clean uniforms, hats, photo ID tags, 600-plus white gloves and shoes, an "extra of everything" and a black box stocked with essential first aid supplies.

Just ask Terelyn Carter, who helped the American Fork High School Marching Band get to the parade in 2007 along with parents, staff members and volunteers who do everything from checking on pant hems (they must just clear the top of the shoe) to making sure all the instruments are loaded and ready to leave a week prior.

"Oh, yeah, I did all that," Carter said.

As the Band Booster president in 2007, Carter oversaw tending to the details that would drive most people crazy.

This time around, the task falls to current booster head Sarah Beeson and a corps of parent volunteers who are already working to schedule flights, rooms, meals, show tickets and tour plans, even a Thanksgiving dinner after the parade.

"One of the first things we do is have to figure out the exact number of kids who are going. Typically that's over 300," Beeson said. "Then we have to have at least two chaperones per 10 kids."

Beeson said once the announcement was made in April that the band would be returning to the parade, she started getting calls from tour companies and people who want to be involved along the way.

Another volunteer is already planning fund-raisers. The band nurses are buying Band-Aids and aspirin in bulk.

The kids are being prepped physically, musically and emotionally.

John Miller, director of Bands at American Fork High School, is happy for the help of parents and community supporters.

"They make it possible to do this," he said. "I (still) always worry about everything but once I get it assigned out, I can focus on the band."

Miller, director of the award-winning band for the past 27 years, said it's a rare treat to be invited to the Macy's parade and even more so to be invited a second time.

"It's hard to get invited once," he said. "But we did well last year and they've been watching us."

The band was picked as one of 10 marching bands out of 175 applications.

Miller said while it may appear there's plenty of time between now and the 2014 event, there are so many details to sort and manage that it's mind-boggling.

Besides marching in the nationally televised parade itself (which requires the students to be at a 1:30 a.m. rehearsal the morning before Thanksgiving), there's a concert at Carnegie Hall in the works for the Wind Symphony and the Jazz Band with a closer by the marching band.

There's also some fun to be had and some exceptional sight-seeing moments.

"We do it first class," Miller said. "We stay in fine hotels. We attend a Broadway show. We hire a tour company with professional tour guides. For most of the kids, it's the only time they'll ever be in New York. We want them to see it."

Some of the students who will be going are just finishing their seventh-grade year. They have to take care of the here and now. The 2013 field show still must be learned and performed and there are local, state, regional and national competitions between now and Thanksgiving 2014. (The band is competing in the Bands of America event in Indianapolis this fall.)

Besides raising the funds to pay for the trips, the band must tape a professional quality video of itself to send to the Macy's committee.

The marching music has to be approved. It can't be what any of the other 10 bands are performing. Copyright clearances need to be obtained.

The band is expected to perform for exactly 90 seconds in front of the Macy's bandstand. They've marked part of the parking lot at the school to mimic the actual stand and the band rehearses on that spot.

"We get one practice and one shot to get it right," Miller said.

Miller and his Band Booster parents are used to preparing for high-pressure events and competitions. Over the years the band has consistently taken state and national championship honors and traveled twice to participate in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

Miller said it's a tradition to excel as a band and students coming into the program know that. Almost all of the staff members are band alumni and they pass on their love of excellence to the newbies.

"They know coming in that we're national champions," Miller said. "It feeds itself."

Each section acts like a small family with everyone looking out for one another. That really helps on the long-distance trips, Miller said.

"We haven't lost a soul, but it is a logistical nightmare," he said.

Donations to the band can be made at the Alpine School District Foundation website ( by clicking on the "donate" button.

If you go:

What: Annual summer Marching Band Yard Sale

Where: Robinson Park, 100 E. Main St., American Fork

When: Saturday, June 8, beginning at 7 a.m.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at