Pride of the Mountains in Macy's Parade

The 535-member strong Pride of the Mountains Marching Band will make its second Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade appearance on Nov. 28.

Sylva will be well represented when Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band makes its second appearance in the 93rd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in five years.

The parade is set for Thursday, Nov. 28, and will be broadcast live on NBC. The band will leave Cullowhee on Saturday, Nov. 23, and return Saturday, Nov. 30.

Of the 535 members of the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, five are from the Sylva area. They are Wyatt Gibson, Reagan Hall, Anthony Hawkins and Grace Pressley from Smoky Mountain High School, and Ally Vickery from Jackson County Early College.

The parade is more than a road trip for these WCU students, said David Starnes, WCU’s director of athletic bands and assistant professor of music. It’s a three-hour, prime-time public relations campaign. WCU’s musicians are one of only two collegiate bands invited to participate.

“Kids see us on television and they say, ‘Who is Western Carolina University?’ and it’s a big draw for the university,” Starnes said.

The trip’s big three expenses – hotel, food and travel – will cost close to $400,000, with another $350,000 in additional expenses for events and other experiential learning activities during the band’s six days in New York.

Neither the band nor WCU make money from appearing in the parade, Starnes said.

“Every group that goes to the Macy’s parade is pretty much on their own as far as how they get there and how they pay for it,” he said. “And you don’t get paid to march in the parade. That’s another thing that people have asked me many times over the last year or so, ‘How much money does Macy’s pay you to be in the parade?’ You don’t make anything. It’s all out-of-pocket and the only paycheck you get is Thanksgiving morning when you’re on TV for millions of people.”

For more information on how to support WCU’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, visit