Talk about keeping a secret.
Tarpon Springs High band director Kevin Ford applied in winter 2020 for the school’s Outdoor Performance Ensemble to march in the 2021 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The group made the cut, and event officials were preparing to visit the north Pinellas County campus with the news when the pandemic hit. They never came.
Until Saturday, that is, to announce the band’s selection as one of 10 to take the 2.5-mile trek through Manhattan in the 2022 parade. Students learned of their selection during an afternoon “icebreaker rehearsal” for new members and their families.
Macy’s gives bands 18 months advance notice so they can raise funds and prepare for the high-profile televised activity, for which more than 100 apply each year.
Tarpon Springs last appeared in the Macy’s parade eight years ago. Creative producer Wesley Whatley said it’s not unusual for bands of the school’s caliber to return, even with the hot competition to win a slot.
“When a program like Tarpon Springs reapplies, it’s difficult to say no,” Whatley said. “They are that good.”
He heaped praise upon the band for its high rating in the event’s many categories that it considers, such as intonation, marching and overall entertainment value — the latter being a critical component for a Thanksgiving crowd that “just wants to laugh and clap and have a good time.”
The school’s Hamilton Project, prepared and performed in the face of the pandemic, offered a highlight of the school’s premier quality, Whatley added.
“What they accomplished, given all the restrictions and concerns, it was so ambitious,” he said. “It speaks to their resilience, but also to their creativity. ... They are constantly surprising their audience, trying something new. That is the type of thing we look for.”