Normal Marching Band looks to finish 2021 season on a high note with performance in Chicago Thursday

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NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — The Normal Marching Band is preparing for the end of its 2021 season this week–its first season back performing on the road.

On Thanksgiving, the band will march down State Street in the Chicago Thanksgiving Day parade.

McLean County Unit 5 schools two high school bands combined their talents four years ago to form the Normal Community Band and look to end the first regular-season coming out of the pandemic on a high note.

Countless rehearsals paid off this year for the Normal Marching Band. Co-director Ryan Budzinski said the band performed in multiple competitions including against some of the best bands in the nation.

“We’ve been thrilled to have a full season of competitions, parades, and performances at football games this fall,” Budzinski said. “This is really just a special way to culminate an outstanding return to being around folks, hearing us play live.”

Monday, the band put the final touches on their performance for Thursday’s parade in the Windy City. Budzinski said it’s a huge honor to be selected to play in Illinois’ largest Thanksgiving Day and weekend parade.

“It’s really our first big parade performance as part of the Normal Marching Band which is in its fourth year of existence, comprised of students from both Normal Community and Normal West,” Budzinski said.

Every note, step, and flag twirl meaning more to the students this year after COVID-19 canceled many of the band’s regular performance opportunities in 2020.

“You had no crowd response so you don’t know if you’re doing something cool,” said drum major, Shelby Hailey. “You just feel like you’re going through the movements.”

“It felt really good to get back this season and to compete with live audiences. Nothing can really replace the cheers you get when you’re out on the field,” said drum major, Braden Pool.

The band consists of more than 120 students between Normal Community and Normal West High School. Pool, a junior at Normal West, said they’re ready to represent Bloomington-Normal, McLean County, and all of central Illinois.

“Even though there’s that weight on your back that you’ve got to represent all of central Illinois, we think that we can do it pretty well, and I’m proud of the band and I think we’ll represent pretty well,” Pool said.

Hailey, a junior at Normal Community, said it’s a great way to cap off one of the band’s more successful seasons.

“This is better than my freshman year and I thought nothing could beat that year, until this year,” Hailey said. “We won many awards and it was very fantastic.”

The parade runs from 8-11 a.m. Thursday.

Parents and community members that aren’t making the trip to Chicago can watch online.

For more information about the live stream options, visit the parade’s website.

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