Kalani teen represents isles in New York parade
Denise Shigeta, 17, plays mellophone in the Macy's parade marching band
Seventeen-year-old Denise Shigeta left sunny Hawaii to march in the cold and rain of a windy New York City morning yesterday as the only isle student playing in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
"We were actually waiting for an hour and half for the start, and we got drenched, our uniforms were drenched," said the Kalani High School senior, who played the mellophone in the parade's marching band. "But once you start moving, you get warm, so it was OK."
Despite shivering wind gusts of 17 to 21 mph, thousands of spectators flocked to Manhattan to see Big Bird, Snoopy and other signature balloons and floats of the parade, which marked its 80th anniversary. The weather, however, prompted city officials to order the balloons flown lower than usual, none rising beyond 17 feet, for safety.
Shigeta said her band, made up of students from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, were first in line to kick off the event. They got up in the dark yesterday morning to practice, then ate breakfast and rode a bus from their hotel in New Jersey to Central Park.
Last year's parade was marred by falling debris that hurt two sisters after a streetlight snagged a balloon. This time, organizers waited just before the scheduled 9 a.m. start before deciding to hold the event, leaving Shigeta and hundreds of participants waiting in line.
"We were all in the freezing cold, but it was very fun, though," she said. "Your adrenaline kicks in."
Shigeta's family, who followed the parade on TV, missed a chance of catching a glimpse of her when they said a state warning message about yesterday's magnitude-5.0 earthquake overrode the original programming.
"It cut right in to where they were going to show the marching band," said Shigeta's father, Thomas, who spent Thanksgiving with his two other daughters at their Pauoa Valley home. "We didn't get a chance to see her, shucks."
This year, Garfield, Ronald McDonald, Scooby-Doo and SpongeBob SquarePants were among the many inflatable characters that took flight in the parade. There also were 33 floats with themes as varied as Charlotte's Web and Barbie, and celebrities including singers Barry Manilow, Gloria Estefan and Ciara.
Shigeta, who arrived in New York on Sunday, shared a room with band members from Missouri, Georgia and Iowa. They practiced for three days and were given free time on Tuesday for sightseeing and shopping, she said. Last night, the students were getting ready to go on a boat cruise for dinner.
A drum major at her school's marching band, Shigeta was one of about 200 students chosen to play in the parade, said Kalani High band director Dennis Kaneshiro, who called her "an outstanding leader."
Shigeta, however, does not plan to pursue music as a career, saying she intends to keep playing "for fun." As for her experience in chilly New York, she said she would do it all over again if given the opportunity.
"It felt really good. I felt really honored to represent Hawaii," she said. "It was really great."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.