NEW YORK — The spontaneous singing that broke out on Central Park West moments before the official kickoff of the 84th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was a delightfully unscripted moment that seemed like a scene from a Broadway musical.
The impromptu sing-along was one of a couple of unexpected occurrences Thanksgiving morning for eight cheerleaders from Osceola High School, who performed in front of Macy's after barely making it to their starting position in time for the start of the parade.
The Osceola students were one of two groups, along with the Seminole High marching band, from Pinellas County invited to the parade.
The parade is a tightly choreographed event timed down to tenths of seconds, so transporting 650 cheerleaders set to perform in the parade is a precision maneuver requiring planning and coordination. But Thanksgiving morning, navigating the subway system caused some headaches for coordinators from Spirit of America, the Texas production group that selects and trains elite cheerleaders from high schools all over the country to participate in the parade.
Some trains weren't running and a few lines were shut down altogether, which necessitated plan B: running six blocks to catch another train to get the group to the parade's staging area on time. The result: 650 teenage girls in hot pink cheerleading uniforms stampeding down Eighth Avenue. The crowd, 10 people deep on both sides of the street, cheered, whistled, whooped and clapped at the sight of the endless stream of girls unexpectedly rounding the corner of 52nd Street and running pell-mell toward Columbus Circle.
Despite the sprint, the girls were energized enough to ignite the spontaneous sing-along.
It began with a Spirit America coach on the sidewalk in front of the American Museum of Natural History:
Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world, she took a midnight train going anywhere
As he began the second verse a few cheerleaders joined in, and then a few more, until the entire group was belting out the words to Journey's 1981 anthem:
Don't stop believin', hold on to that feeling, streetlights, people, oh, oh, oh!
Residents hanging out of apartment windows picked up the words and joined in. So did police officers lining the barricades. A few yards away, musicians sitting atop a vintage circus wagon waiting in the parade queue bobbed their heads and began to sing along, with the drummer and the bass player combining to provide a beat.
Directly across the street, members of the Seminole Warhawk marching band watched, grinning and bopping to the beat, tubas and baritone horns shining in the morning sunlight.
Not to be outdone, Saturday Night Live alum turned talk show host Jimmy Fallon leaped from his parade float and jumped over a police barricade, wading into the sea of cheerleaders.
For members of the Seminole High School band, it was yet another indescribable New York moment.
Seminole color guard members Bryttani Schwab, 18, Michelle Laubach, 17, and Brittany Sippel, 18, agreed that their favorite part about the trip was Times Square, especially because the three got to see themselves displayed on the jumbo screen.
"I'm totally overwhelmed by how huge the city is, how huge everything is here," said 16-year-old junior David Koning.