For one former Wapakoneta High School Marching Band member Thanksgiving Day started with getting up at 2:30 a.m. and practicing downtown at 4 a.m. — all for a parade that started five hours later.
Miami University Marching Band member Justin Engle, 19, said he was stunned — not by the crowd or the television cameras — but by the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s similarities to parades in Wapakoneta.
“It was very interesting because I know there are TV cameras and stuff all over the place, but early on into the parade we saw very little TV cameras,” Engle told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “The parade seemed like a local parade just with a lot of people.
“The most interesting thing to me. while was it was very well ran,” he said, “it seemed like a standard parade just among very high skyscrapers.”
Engle said the neatest experience for him was marching into Herald’s Square with his band mates, who immediately preceded Santa Claus during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. They played “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” as he moved in front of the Macy’s store.
“One thing I noticed is they make it look a lot bigger on television than it really is,” Engle said. “It is just a regular old city street like you would find in Wapak. It was really cool there because there was a lot of people there.”
He and the marching Redhawks saw singer Neil Diamond, who performed during the parade. The highlight of that encounter was playing a couple of songs for the music legend and having Diamond take pictures of the marching band for himself.
Thinking the band would be tired getting up at 2:30 a.m., Engle said the band played with little effect of lack of sleep, rising to the occasion — especially when it came time to introduce Santa Claus in front of Macy’s and in front of more than 50 million viewers on television.
“This was really the moment that we had been working for all season,” said Engle, who plays numerous instruments but plays the tenor saxophone for Miami University. “I had to make sure to get my part right, I had to make sure I was marching in the right spot. I tried to keep my nerves down, which I think I did pretty well.”
As the TV cameras rolled, the band and Santa Claus stayed for a good 5 to 10 minutes in front the parade’s namesake and sponsor store.
“More stuff kept coming through and it just kept piling on in,” Engle said. “Confetti was just everywhere and I had to clean out my saxophone because confetti had actually gotten lodged into my saxophone.”
When the cameras stopped broadcasting, the band had another two to three blocks to perform.
While Justin Engle marched down the streets of New York City, his parents, Ellen and Michael Engle, and his younger sister, Erin, 14, continued a family tradition. They got up early to make cinnamon rolls and watch the parade.
His mother reacted exactly the way Justin Engle predicted.
“I cried,” Ellen Engle said. “We were so proud of him.
“I never, never thought anything like this would happen,” she said, “but when my son wants something, he figures out a way to get it and he does it.”
Joining the Engles this year were Ellen Engle’s parents, Kayle Rattarree and Leonard Houser.
She said the family had a lot of fun as Justin performed with the Wapakoneta High School Marching Band for four years and they look forward to another four years as Erin, a high school freshman, plays with the Redskin band.
“From the way she is very active with the Miami University Marching Band, I would not he surprised if she went there, too,” Ellen Engle said.
During Justin Engle’s four years with Wapakoneta’s bands, he played bassoon, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone and bass guitar. He was the recipient of the band’s Paul Gilmore award as a senior and earned two superiors with two different instruments during high school competitions — one for tenor saxophone and one for bassoon.
When he marched across the TV screen, Ellen Engle said they all screamed when they watched the Eagle Scout make his way down the street across the TV screen.
The marching band returned to Oxford Saturday, amid friends at home and in his dorm questioning them about the events.
Along with marching in the parade, the band received a tour of city on Wednesday, saw the Radio City Rockettes perform on Thursday night, and he said he survived shopping Black Friday n Times Square.
He offered some advice regarding the experience.
“I would say to those if you have any school experience or not, give marching band or some club a chance because you don’t know what kind of opportunities may come up,” Engle said. “If you would have told me during my junior or senior year of high school that I would be marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I would probably have given you the weirdest look I could give you because I would not have believed it to be true.
“I get here and it was true,” he said. “It was a moment I didn’t think would ever come and I was so glad when it finally got here. It was great.”