HAMPTON, Va. — Hampton University’s marching band will perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City next week.
It’s the only band from the Commonwealth, and the sole Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to participate this year.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said third-year student and band member Joshua White. "I know it's coming, but I still can't believe we are going to New York City."
"It's really a testament to the hard work we've put in," said senior Selena Makell, who is part of the dance team.
More than 3 million people will attend the parade, and over 50 million are expected to kick off their holiday celebrations by watching at home.
"To be on this big stage in front of millions of people, being the only HBCU at this parade we really want to represent for all HBCUs," said Dr. Thomas L. Jones, Jr., Director of Bands at HU.
It’s the first time The Force will perform at the Macy’s Parade, but it’s not the first time on a big stage.
These experiences are part of what's made Makell's college experience so special, but it's taken a lot of work.
"I mean, waking up. The early report times. Coming to practice every day,” she listed.
All of that work, for more than a year, and for a two-and-a-half-mile strut.
"You have a minute and 15 seconds to show the world what you can do," said Jones. "So you have to condense everything that your program is and ever was into that minute and 15 seconds."
It’s also taken help.
PEPSI Stronger Together donated $100,000 for the band's travel and clothing.
The Force was invited to the parade last year. That didn't happen because of COVID. But the pandemic inspired the theme of their upcoming performance: “A Celebration of Family.”
The band will leave for New York on Monday. The parade takes place on Thanksgiving.