By the time Nation Ford High's marching band performs in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade today in New York City, the 160 teens from South Carolina will have been up for nine hours.
After a 1:45 a.m. wake-up call, the group dressed in uniforms, grabbed instruments and headed for a rehearsal at NBC studios. There's a 5 a.m. breakfast, 7 a.m. meeting at Central Park, then the parade at 9 a.m.
Nation Ford is expected to be on TV (NBC) between 10 and 11:30 a.m.
Mitchell Tyson, a freshman tenor saxophone player, is excited and nervous.
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"There's like 16 million people watching," he said.
A Macy's parade organizer surprised the band in April 2010 by announcing that the group had been chosen from more than 150 competitors across the country. Nation Ford is among eight high school bands in the parade.
Since the announcement, the band has captured its third straight state championship title and raised $160,000 to travel to New York for six days.
Band director Martin Dickey crammed the itinerary.
By Wednesday afternoon, the group had already seen the Broadway musical "Memphis," toured cathedrals and visited ground zero.
It's several students' first trip to the city. "The buildings are huge," Tyson said.
After the parade, the band will stop for a formal photo, then head to the hotel for a nap.
But they're not skipping Thanksgiving. This evening, they'll board a yacht at Lincoln Harbor for a dinner cruise.
According to the itinerary: They're to "enjoy New York's breathtaking skyline" plus "Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the trimmings."