A day after they played in the 90th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Grain Valley Marching Eagles band members wanted to spend some of Black Friday in the famous namesake store.
“The kids wanted to stop inside and see the store they had marched around,” said band director Reid Atkinson as his students traversed through the giant store Friday morning.
Later, they would have lunch at Times Square and visit Rockefeller Plaza before flying back to Missouri starting early Saturday morning.
Friday morning, Atkinson sounded like he was still on cloud nine from the previous two days. The Marching Eagles not only had played in the Macy's Parade, a moment for which they'd been waiting 18 months, but the morning before they had appeared on NBC's “TODAY Show,” marching around the studio in small groups.
Atkinson said TODAY co-host Matt Lauer had mentioned on Tuesday's show about hoping to revive a little tradition that had “gone by wayside” – having one of the parade's marching bands visit the studio in style (and step).
“The Macy's committee got a call, and their next call was to us,” Atkinson said, adding that his answer to the question of 'Would you do this?' was an unequivocal yes. It meant a slight change in plans, but Atkinson certainly wasn't going to pass up another chance to be on TV.
“They erupted,” Atkinson said of when he informed the students Tuesday evening. “To get that type of national attention and be awarded a chance to represent the school a second time…
“We got 'em up at four in the morning, and we had about 30 minutes to practice and set up (at Rockefeller Center).”
Atkinson said he divided the band into about five groups. The largest one that stayed outside produced most of the sound, and smaller groups that marched around the show's hosts, in the control room, or in the makeup room. That appearance gave the Eagles a little extra recognition in the crowd the next morning.
“I heard some people say, 'Hey, that's the band that was on the show,'” Atkinson said.
Ah yes, the parade – which meant an early alarm Thursday to rehearse their TV bit for Herald Square at 3:30 a.m., and later waiting next to Central Park before the start of the parade.
“It was kind of a hurry-up-and-wait,” Atkinson said. “That 2 a.m. wake-up call came early.”
Atkinson termed it “quintessential New York weather – a little chilly,” but adrenaline helped carry the band through until they started marching, which was well after the parade actually started at 9 a.m. By the time the Marching Eagles appeared on TV on NBC affiliates it was 11:25 a.m.
“With the balloons and everything, there's just so much to look at, and once you start, in the blink of an eye it's done,” Atkinson said. “The kids did a great job.”
The bus back to the hotel proved to be well-deserved nap time, and the band slept even more at the hotel before enjoying Thanksgiving dinner at Liberty House Restaurant in Jersey City, which offers an unabated view of the Manhattan skyline.
“It was an amazing experience,” Atkinson said.