Macy's Parade Memories

From: Public Affairs

Don Fisher, father of Mary Kait Fisher, followed along with his camera. Click on photo to see more.

Dec. 5, 2008

By all accounts, the Marching Royal Dukes represented James Madison University in fine style and with the marching band's traditional flair in the 82nd Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade®.

The largest marching band in the history of JMU—474 strong this year—marked the ensemble's second appearance in the holiday parade. The MRDs last marched in the 2001 Macy's parade, the 75th anniversary edition.

The JMU band, one of 10 bands in the parade, performed "76 Trombones" and "1941" along the route before and after playing "Sing, Sing, Sing" in Herald Square. The band marched out of the square to the strains of the "JMU Fight Song."

“With JMU’s centennial, what better way to celebrate on a national scope than to feature the band program on TV,” said Scott Rikkers, assistant director of bands and director of the Marching Royal Dukes.

The Marching Royal Dukes date to 1972 when JMU established a football program. Membership in the Marching Royal Dukes is open to all JMU students, regardless of their academic majors. About three-quarters of the band members are not music majors.

Read first-hand accounts of the Marching Royal Dukes in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade:

"You know, I've been associated with bands for my whole life. I've watched them, played in them, been a graduate assistant to them, directed them. I've never seen a band like MRD! It's not that it is big, even though it is; it's not that it is musically excellent, even though it is; it's that the MRD is large, musically excellent, well organized and most importantly joyful. That joy pops off the field! That joy pops off the parade route. It is unmistakable and it is rare. The students, faculty and staff of MRD are just remarkable in so many ways. I could not be more proud than to be associated with the group of people that make up the MRD!

One thing of interest for readers and for people who watched the parade on TV and could not know this without having been there: The MRD was the only band that played the whole parade. All of the other bands marched much of the parade to drum taps or drum cadences. MRD played almost the entire time, knowing that when they returned home they had a playoff game ahead of them."

– George Sparks, Dean, College of Visual and Performing Arts


"Performing as a member of the 2008 Marching Royal Dukes in the Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade will be an experience I will never forget. Every year
growing up, I was always so excited to see the parade. I would wake up early
on Thanksgiving Day and run downstairs to make sure that I saw the very
beginning of it. I always thought of what it would be like to be in a marching
band in the parade, and I got my wish. Sure, waking up at 2:30 in the morning
was a little awkward for most of us, but in the end it was worth it. I don't think I
have ever played my trumpet outside at 4 a.m., and I don't think I ever will
again. Just another thing to make my experience unforgettable. Not only was I
able to march in the most famous parade in the country, but I was also able to
spend the holiday in New York City. I have never seen so many lights, heard so
much Christmas music, or seen so many people fight over items at the Disney
Store or Toys R' Us on Black Friday. So many things happened in the span of
those four days, that it seemed like a week. It was one of the most amazing and
unforgettable experiences I have ever had in my life, and I will always remember
it."

– Eric Blumenthal of Blue Bell, Pa., trumpet


"Being in the Macy's Parade was such an amazing experience! There was so
much preparation and anticipation going into the trip that I don't think it all
really hit me until our morning rehearsal at 4 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning! I
will always remember what it was like performing on Herald Square. It was truly
a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be part of the MRD's in the Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade!"

– Sara Critz of Salem, Va., drum major


"I think the most significant thing about our marching in the parade was that it may have been the last time the parade is on Broadway since they are extending the sidewalks to make it more 'shopper friendly.'

I'm only a freshman, so going to something so big with the MRDs was amazing and so much fun. Being in New York for one thing, and then the parade, and then the bus ride back to the 'Burg' on the tuba bus with my friends was pretty much the most awesome thing ever."

– Jessica Young of Harrisonburg, Va., clarinet


"My most unforgettable experience about the Macy’s Parade was watching in the distance as the band approached the spot where my group was observing the parade. After working so many months to make the trip and performance a reality, the reward is hearing and seeing such a passionate group of performers 'brighten the lights of Madison' for the entire world to see. It was such a magical moment for me. I will always remember the terrific support that we received on the trip from JMU President Dr. Lin Rose, Dean of Visual and Performing Arts Dr. George Sparks, Associate Dean of Visual and Performing Arts Dr. Marilou Johnson and Director of the School of Music Dr. Jeff Showell. It was wonderful to have this group of people along because they sparked such enthusiasm among the staff and band members with their show of support for our program."

– Connie Driscoll, band office administrative assistant


"Macy's 2008 was for me one of the highlights of my 28 years with the MRDs. I am so very proud of our students and what they accomplished in NYC! They entertained so many people and brought the joy of the season to both New Yorkers and countless people across the country.

I don't think people understand the impact of that parade on the people of New York. When the MRDs marched in the parade in 2001, there was the sense of bringing a little hope and happiness to a city that had recently been ravaged by the attacks of 9/11. I didn't think we could ever duplicate that feeling. But the people lining the parade route were just as glad to see us as they were seven years ago! From the little kids wanting to 'high five' anyone in the parade to the families doing their annual holiday ritual to the New York police officers lining the entire route, everyone looks forward to the excitement and thrill of the big parade! It was an honor to be a part of that event with such a dedicated, talented group of young people. I am thankful to have been a part of it all!"

– Bill Posey, assistant director of the Marching Royal Dukes