By Josette Keelor
This Thanksgiving, Maurertown resident Matthew Hyden, will not be watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV like he normally does each year. Instead, he will march in the parade, as part of Macy's Great American Marching Band.
Even more meaningful, though, is that this will be his second time.
"It was definitely very memorable and very much an honor," he said. "I'm very happy I got to do that once, I'm ecstatic I get to go back, I get to do it for a second time. You don't ever meet people who have performed in the Macy's parade. It's not something you hear very often, especially in our area."
The band accepts high school students or those who, like Hyden, graduated within the parade year. Though he graduated from Central High School in June and attends Lord Fairfax Community College, he still qualifies for his senior year.
"You can do it up to four years," he said. "It's made up of kids all over the country, all 50 states and the District of Columbia."
The band features 185 musicians, with 50 flags and dancers, according to www.musfestivals.com.
"I know I'm one of the seven representing the state of Virginia," Hyden said.
Saturday he will take an Amtrak train from Washington to New York City, where representatives from the Macy's parade will meet him and other band members to take them to their hotel in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.
He and other band members will spend a week in New York City, shopping, visiting the World Trade Center site, seeing the Broadway musical "Mama Mia" and rehearsing for Thursday's performance.
The whole experience began last year when Hyden and his mother booked a bus trip to NYC to see the parade in person, as a senior gift for Hyden. When looking up Macy's parade website to see if James Madison University's Marching Royal Dukes would be there, Hyden learned of the Macy's band and that it wasn't too late to apply to be a part of it.
Last year he sent in a video audition, and because he made the band, this year's application process was a lot easier.
"You're already considered alumni, so you don't have to send in another audition unless you want to audition for another section," he said. "You're kind of grandfathered in."
But his efforts didn't end with acceptance into the band.
"I did a lot of fundraising this year. Like I spun cotton candy at the Route 11 Yard Crawl, I spun cotton candy at the Edinburg Ole Time Festival and at Woodstock's AutumnFest. Last year I kind of went to business to business and was like, 'Hey, are you interested in being one of my sponsors?' ... That way we don't have to pay a lot out of pocket for it. And I think by doing the fundraisers in the community I've let a lot more people in the community know where I'm going, instead of just a few of the businesses knowing."
As a way of thanking his sponsors -- the Ole Time Festival, AutumnFest, The Family Drive-in Theatre in Stephens City, the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, Firefly Hot Sauce and Passage Creek Farms -- Hyden built a float that he will use in area parades.
"The Woodstock AutumnFest and the Ole Time Festival waved the vendor fees for me," Hyden said. "Everything I took in was profit."
Hyden, who plays the cymbals, already knows one of his roommates from last year -- a trumpet player from Las Vegas. His other two roommates, he said, are from Alabama.
"You get to meet people from all over the country, which is really cool," he said.
For privacy reasons, he said, the parade organizers do not let band members know who else from the area might attend. Hyden said last year he learned after he returned that Amanda Pennypacker, from Winchester, was also in the parade.
"The funny thing was she marched like two lines in front of me; she played piccolo," he said. "And I didn't meet her until we got back and I met her at district chorus."
The Macy's band will perform Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" and "(Up a) Lazy River," Hyden said.
"It's just really funny to see all of us together. You would think that all these kids coming together and trying to put this together for a parade in less than a week ... you know, they wouldn't sound the best, but ... it really does come together. We sound really, really good."
Matthew Hyden will play cymbals with the Macy's Great American Marching Band in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon on NBC.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org