PHOTO COURTESY LIZ HAHN
The Hawaii All-State Marching Band performed yesterday in Washington, D.C., on its way to New York for the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.
Band amps up for NYC parade
Forty isle high schools will be represented on Thanksgiving Day
THIS THURSDAY, the 79th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York will get some aloha to go with its numerous balloons and celebrities.
Despite a chilly forecast complete with rain and possibly snow flurries, nearly 400 of Hawaii's high school students, representing 40 high schools from around the state, are expected to march, play and dance throughout the streets of the Big Apple as one of only 10 bands in one of the biggest and most famous parades in the world.
And the parade will mark the Hawaii All-State Marching Band's second public performance after only a week of rehearsals.
While the musicians and dancers have been preparing for months for this trip to the East Coast, groups from each island were "doing steps in a vacuum" as they practiced without their full off-island contingents, said Liz Hahn, mother of two boys on the squad from Waimea, Kauai.
Their first full practice with all 390 or so members of the squad, Hahn said, came Sunday in a parking lot at the Pentagon.
Just hours later, the full band performed yesterday, at the request of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, in front of Capitol Hill. Numerous friends and relatives, and Hawaii's two senators, among others, attended.
"It was an absolutely fabulous performance," said Hahn. Akaka and U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye "really made the kids feel special," she said.
And while Hahn might be a little biased, Inouye was amazed by the group as well.
"I was deeply impressed by their performance, especially when I learned that this was the second time the band had played together," Inouye said through his press office.
Inouye also praised John Riggle, the all-state band's director and the director of bands at Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama High School Campus for the past three decades.
"To be in charge of 50 band members is an accomplishment," said Inouye, who himself was a band member at McKinley High School. "To be in charge of nearly 400, that's almost unbelievable."
The hard work is far from done.
After sightseeing tours of the Smithsonian Institution and much of the memorials and monuments in the nation's capital, the band and its chaperones, filling 14 large tour buses, moved on to Philadelphia for more practice and a little more sightseeing.
Then it's on to New Jersey, and more practice before the big day Thursday, and quite the crazy day.
PHOTO COURTESY LIZ HAHN
U.S. Sens. Daniel Akaka, center, and Daniel Inouye greeted members of the Hawaii All-State Band yesterday hours after their first full practice -- in the Pentagon parking lot.
Hahn said that band members have to be in New York by 3:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning for a technical rehearsal. Then it's back up to the parade's start at 9 a.m., the 2.5-mile parade and then a performance for the television cameras and millions watching at home.
The weather is supposed to be in the low 40s as well, but you won't hear these kids complaining, Hahn said.
Members of the band "are having fun and playing music," bonding with fellow musicians and dancers from across the state, she said. "They are literally bringing sunshine to a cool place."
As for the cold, Hahn said, band leaders required long underwear underneath their red and yellow aloha attire, and black pants underneath their raffia skirts. The dancers will be wearing flesh-colored leotards and jackets for the parade, and will remove the jackets for their performance at the end of the parade.
The Na Koa Alii Band was founded in 2002 and performed in the Rose Bowl parade on Jan. 1, 2004. While the Kauai All-island Marching band represented the Garden Isle at last year's Rose Bowl Parade, this marks only the second tour for the all-state marching band.
According to their Web site, their repertoire includes "Pate Pate," by Te Vaka, and "Mele Kalikimaka." The band's 20-member auxiliary will also perform Tahitian and hula dances.
The parade will be shown, on tape delay, at 9 a.m. Thursday on KHNL 8.