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Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Proves Enriching for Wood River Students
Tuesday, December 6, 2022


A Wood River High School student who marched in Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade the past two years switched gears this year.

Instead of heading south to sunny California, Orrie DeShields flew across the country to the Big Apple to march in Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

Orrie DeShields played tenor saxophone. He was joined by fellow Wood River High School sophomore and alto saxophone player Rayce Nelson as they marched with 250 others in Macy’s Great American Marching Band, which brings together the country’s finest high school musicians.

Both are Jazz and Concert band students under Wood River High School music teacher Patrick Herb. The two are the first from the Wood River Valley to take part in Macy’s band; 19 other Idaho youth have  participated in the band since 2006.

“There were 3 million spectators along the parade route, then another 50 million people watched them on NBC,” said DeShields’ mother Becky DeShields.

The youngsters performed Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” as they marched down Fifth Avenue. They also performed a choreographed number to “Christmas Carols on Parade” on Herald Square in front of Macy’s flagship store.

Both boys agreed they were impressed with the big overall sound produced by a band of 250 musicians.

“Orrie thought this was a little easier than the Pasadena parade because the parade route was only three miles versus 5.5 miles. And they only had to learn two songs, compared with four for the California parade. Still, it was challenging to do the choreographed number in front of Macy’s,” said Becky DeShields.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade began in 1924 and features celebrities, floats and giant character balloons that soar five to six stories above the crowd and celebrities. Macy’s Great American Marching Band made its inaugural appearance in the 80th Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2006 and has played ever since, along with about 10 other bands selected from around the country.

This year’s bands also included the University of Missouri’s Marching Mizzou, South Dakota State University and high school bands from Texas and the Hoosier state.

“It’s hard to pick out your own kid as they go by,” said DeShields. “You go, ‘Oh! Is that him?’ ”

The balloon version of Greg Heffley, the star of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” bounced through the streets of New York as high as a three-story building, as long as eight bicycles and as wide as five taxi cabs. Sinclair’s Dino with an all-new Baby DINO on its back stood as high as a four-story building, as long as 11 bicycles and as wide as five taxi cabs.

And the Celebration Gator float adorned in azaleas, magnolias and Mardi Gras beads measured 60 feet from mouth to tail. Celebrities appearing in the parade included Kirk Franklin, Gloria Estevan, Dionne Warwick, Paula Abdul, Trombone Shorty and Ziggy Marley.

“My favorite balloon was Baby Yoda. And we went to see Trombone Shorty when he played Sun Valley in 2015 at River Run so it was cool to see him do a number in front of Macy’s,” said DeShields.

DeShields and Nelson flew to New York the Saturday before Thanksgiving and spent the next few days sightseeing and taking leadership classes, in addition to practicing with the band.

They saw the musical “Aladdin” on Broadway, went to the Top of the Rock observation deck on Rockefeller Center, checked out the nation’s Christmas tree and ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza, toured Times Square and ate hamburgers at a famous Broadway diner where 20-somethings looking to be Broadway stars serenade the guests.

DeShields says the experience of marching in band is an enriching one for kids like Orrie who come from rural schools too small to field their own marching bands. So are the leadership and enrichment activities provided high school youth while there.

That’s why she and other band parents hope to raise funds to make sure other youngsters from the Wood River Valley can experience it.

“It cost $1,800 for Orrie to go, plus $1,000 for the airline ticket. It shouldn’t be only for kids who can afford it,” she said. “Orrie has gotten to meet new kids at these parades, seen sights he’s never seen. He also got to take part in one of the most famous parades in the United States—a parade that’s been going on for 96 years.”

The Wood River High School Parent Band Booster Club hopes to raise enough funds to take four students to the historic parade next year and they’re looking for donors to help make it happen. To help, contact Patrick Herby at or Becky DeShields at

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