O’FALLON, Ill. — Months of anticipation came to an end at O’Fallon Township High School (OTHS) in O’Fallon, IL, with a “big reveal” Wednesday.   

For the “Marching Panthers” marching band, 2023 may bring the performance of a lifetime.  It has been a closely guarded secret for a couple of months.  Those making the announcement had to make travel plans from New York.   

Band leaders kept the kids guessing until the very last moment as the 250 or so band members gathered in the school gym.   

“Everyone was like, what is it?  What is it?” said drum major, Ben Smith, an OTHS junior.  

“Somebody thought, ‘oh we’re going to France.  Somebody thought, ‘oh we’re going to Hawaii,’” laughed freshman band member, Brayden Korstad.   

A man they’d never met grabbed a microphone and ended the suspense.  

“It is with great pleasure that I announce to you today that the O’Fallon Marching Panthers have been selected to represent this school and the great State of Illinois and perform in New York City, in the 2023 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” the man announced to the band.  

That man was Wesley Whatley, Creative Producer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The students erupted with cheers.  Judging from their astonished faces, the news was worth the wait.   

Macy’s also presented the band with a $10,000 check to cover at least part of the cost of taking the close to 250 member show on the road.  After a confetti drop, it was off to band practice.  

Practice is a lot easier when you know how it can pay off.  The Marching Panthers performed in the Tournament of Roses Parade earlier this year.  It will be the band’s first “Macy’s” appearance in more than 20 years.   

They are one of 6 High Schools and 2 college bands selected to perform in 2023; the only band from Missouri or Illinois.  So, even though it was April afternoon, it felt like Thanksgiving at OTHS.   

“This will be a change,” Korstad smiled.  “Instead of having green beans in Turkey, we’re going to be up in New York.  I’m just really thankful for this whole opportunity.”   

“To see the character balloons, the floats, the scale of the show live is an experience:  an educational experience, a musical experience, for these students that will be unlike any other in their lifetime,” Whatley said.  

“(Music can) give them experiences they couldn’t get anywhere else,” said band director, Melissa Gustafon-Hinds.  “That’s what music can do. This is one of them.  This is a really special one and I can’t be more thankful.” 

 There was just one downside, sort of.  By the time the 2023 parade comes around the juniors and seniors in the band now will have graduated.  Still, they said they were just thankful their younger band mates were getting the chance to go.