On the day before Thanksgiving, Bill Buzza and five Leavitt Area High School students were in New York City, eagerly anticipating the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

The students will march in the band leading the parade: the Macy’s Great American Marching Band. For those watching on television, the parade is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. today.

Buzza had some pointers on how to find the Leavitt kids. As the parade begins, two Leavitt students will be at opposite ends in the front row. To viewers’ right will be Allison Neal on the trombone. At the far left of the screen will be Dustin Harrison on the trumpet. And to the left of the banner will be one of the color guards, Allison Hunter.

The other two students are Michael and Emily Hunter. It may be tough to see Emily, who’ll be marching farther back. But Mike could be visible when cameras show a close-up of the band performing in front of Macy’s. He’ll be playing the cymbals.

The performances in front of Macy’s are taped ahead of time – at 3 a.m., Buzza said. Band members were scheduled to leave their hotel at 2 a.m. today for the parade.

They won’t get much sleep, but that’s OK, Buzza said. “The kids are so excited. You can really feel their energy.”

Wompkee marching

Another Mainer marching in the Macy’s parade will be a Wompkee, a fuzzy green children’s character.

“The Wompkees are whimsical creatures that live all over the world,” said co-creator Con Fullam of Windham. He and his wife, Maura Clark, created the characters first for a children’s book with a plush toy in 1994. These days, the Wompkees are in 38 countries. They’ve appeared in movies and have aired on PBS and cable programs. The Wompkees will have their own Christmas special on Fox television this season. The time and day were not available as of Wednesday.

Most of the time the Wompkees are animated. But one materializes on Thanksgiving Day to march in the parade. It’s been that way since 1996.

That year Fullam was at a New York City conference wearing a Wompkee suit. A Macy’s representative came by and said, “You have to be in our parade.”

From 1996 through 2005, Fullam was the one wearing the Wompkee suit in the parade. This year it will be someone else.

Fullam called it “an astounding experience. There’s 2.5 million people lining the parade route,” he said. That’s more than double Maine’s population.


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