Three Northwest Indiana high school bands will toot their own horns, trombones and other brass instruments when the 79th Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade steps this morning down State Street.
Bands from Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond, Gary’s Calumet New Tech High School and Merrillville High School will be among the 180 units in the popular parade sponsored by McDonald’s and televised live nationwide by WGN-TV.
The parade begins at 8 a.m.
The newly revived 31-member band from Bishop Noll will sport new collegiate-style uniforms and Busby hats that just arrived this week.
“We found the uniforms the band has been wearing in a closet in the old part of the building. They were at least 30 years old,” said Rocco Carioto, BNI director of bands who is credited with revitalizing the school’s band program last year.
In October, the Warriors band from BNI won a prize at the Columbus Day Parade in Chicago.
Carioto said as soon as the band grew from five to 15 members, he applied for the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade. The band’s audition tape won them spot number 60 in the Christmas-themed march that will take students from Congress to Randolph Street.
“When you do a parade of this magnitude, it really steps up the band program,” he said.
Rounding out the group to 50 will be members of the Bishop Noll pom squad, cheerleaders and dance team members forming the flag corps.
The Calumet New Tech High School Band will make its fifth appearance in the historic Chicago parade as unit number 27, putting the students among the first marching musicians to entertain the expected crowd of about 500,000 people.
“We apply every other year, and our video audition this year put us in the top 24 bands,” said Rebecca Conner, assistant director of bands with the Lake Ridge school district.
Conner, who directs the band at Lake Ridge New Tech Middle School, has been working with the high school musicians while the district’s director of bands Thomas Wright recovers from surgery.
Some 85 students from Calumet New Tech will participate including the school’s color guard.
A frequent Thanksgiving Day parade participant, the Merrillville High School Band received an invitation from parade organizers, The Chicago Festival Association, said Mark Danielson, director of bands for the Merrillville Community Schools.
“It’s exciting and it’s fun. The crowd is huge and very enthusiastic. It creates a beam of energy no matter what the weather is like. The kids feed off that and they play better,” Danielson said.