This is the first year the American Fork High School Marching Band became eligible to seek another spot in the iconic New York City Macy's parade and on Thursday, delighted students learned they had once again been chosen to perform.
Terelyn Carter, past band booster president, was among the hundreds of American Fork performers in the crowded 2007 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Bands must wait five years before reapplying. Thursday's invitation to the 2014 Macy's Thanksgiving parade surprised Carter and the 250 band members.
"A lot of our band is the parents, and because they love the program as much as they do, it makes it easier," Carter said. "This is amazing."
The American Fork High band room is filled with trophies running up all four walls, a testament to the program that band director John Miller has headed for the past 27 years. He has overseen performances in the Rose Bowl Parade, the presidential Inauguration Day parade, and now, twice in New York City.
The Utah band is one of 10 marching ensembles chosen for the Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014, parade out of more than 175 applicants.
Miller began his Thursday morning address to students in the band room with: "It's been an amazing 27 years here."
Students' mouths opened; their eyes widened; and they shot worried glances to each other.
"Just kidding," Miller said.
That's when Wesley Whatley, creative director of the parade, took over announcing the invitation.
"My job is to identify programs that are the best of the best," Whatley said.
He said it's unusual for a band to be invited again after the five-year waiting period, so it's a "real testament to [American Fork's] quality and talent."
Amid a bright swirl of confetti, Principal Doug Finch said when he travels to other states, the school's band program is one of the first things others bring up.
Both he and Miller said the program is a team effort built over time and praised the seniors, who will be graduating, many leaving for college in the fall.
The parade has been a holiday tradition for more than 85 years. It proceeds down a New York City route more than two miles long, with music, floats and its signature huge balloons.
Drum major and clarinet player Maren McAllister expects plenty of practicing over the next 18 months. Members practice about 12 hours a week and attend a weeklong summer camp with sessions from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
"We've got to be physically fit, so we'll run every practice," the 16-year-old said. "We usually practice for an hour around the neighborhood. It's fun, because people will start clapping.
"The City Council, the major, everybody is telling us how proud they are of us."
Miller said the hardest part of his job after 27 years is coming up with a different field show every year.
"But I steal ideas [when traveling around the country]," Miller said, smiling.
Officials will start raising funds for the trip, which will cost about $1,200 per student.
Those interested in donating can log onto the band's website, afbands.org.