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Huron Plainman | From the Fair City... to the Big Apple

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HURON – As South Dakotans listened to the Macy’s Day Parade on Thanksgiving Day, many watched intently for the South Dakota State University Marching Band, affectionately known as the “Pride of the Dakotas,” as they paraded in front of the television cameras.

Among the 344 members marching in Pride uniform that day were two young women from the Heartland area.

McKenzie Hofer was deciding on her future college destination in the summer of 2021 before her senior year at James Valley Christian High School when she first heard about Pride from Principal Dr. Kevin Kesler.

“My first thought was that it sounded amazing, especially since I had eight years of flute in the band under my belt, but they would probably never accept someone with no marching experience like me,” explained Hoffer.

She continued, “Fortunately, that fear turned out to be wrong. Dr. Kesser shared that a lot of the pride never paraded in high school and they would teach me everything I needed to. to know.

The history of the South Dakota State Band traveling to perform dates back to the St. Louis World’s Fair, also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, in 1904. The school band traveled to the nationally and internationally since, performing for the inauguration of two Presidents of the United States and twice at the Rose Bowl Parade.

Jamee Kattner, a May 2021 Huron High School graduate who plays the trumpet in Pride, recalls extra workouts were immediate for Pride members who showed up for summer music camp.

“As soon as we came in for the band’s summer camp, the directors were already talking about the Macy’s Day Parade and the extra rehearsals and preparation we would have to do to not only be ready for the parade, but also to get our football game. . “The routines are also ready,” recalls Kattner.

Jamee Kattner poses against the backdrop of Central Park and the New York skyline.

Hofer recalls her introduction to campus as a freshman that fall included intense integration into Pride.

“I was a typical freshman, extremely nervous walking into the concert hall and immediately finding myself among hundreds of kids in the band, none of whom I knew,” Hofer recalled.

From the outset, Dr. Kessler and our Section Leaders welcomed new Pride members with such vigorous energy.

Both Hofer and Kattner noted the specific practices throughout the fall to prepare for the Pride performance on the “star” during the parade.

The intention was to get the group into formation to squeeze the whole group into a single camera shot before then continuing into marching formation.

The trip to New York started very appropriately.

“Our departure day started at 4:30 a.m., which was a great way to kick off a week of very little sleep,” Hofer recalled.

The band members had several days to visit sites around New York.

The band performed on the deck of the Intrepid Air, Sea, and Space Museum. The group also spent time at Rockefeller Center, the 9/11 Memorial and many other sites.

“The highlight of my trip was the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island,” Hofer said. “My grandmother, Alie Hofer, is a Dutch immigrant who crossed the Atlantic with her family in 1948. Standing on a ferry and watching the waves crash on Liberty Island like my grandmother had done there at seventy-four was an indescribable feeling. ”

Hofer continues, “Ellis Island had a room with computers where, for a small fee, you could search the records of those who had gone through their immigration journey. I wish I could describe how I felt when my grandmother’s name appeared on the screen. The staff showed me the hallways and stairs she should have walked through. All I can say is that there really were tears of joy.

McKenzie Hofer poses outside the famed Radio City Music Hall, where several members of the SDSU band saw the Rockettes perform.

“It was my first time in the ‘Big Apple,'” Kattner explained. “While I loved everything we did there, my favorite by far was seeing the Rockettes. I hadn’t realized how much production goes into the Rockettes. 3D opening, singers, drones and much more! And I can’t forget Jimmy Fallon gave me a high-five while we waited to take our parade seats!”

Everyone went to bed early Wednesday night to be ready for a 2:30 a.m. wake-up call and load buses to get to the morning rehearsal with NBC producers at 4 a.m. Between the rehearsal and the march, a buffet breakfast was served, and some even took a nap!

Pride began the parade route at 10:30 a.m., marching through a crowd estimated at three million along the parade route.

Thousands of South Dakotans (and many other states and nations) have been sharing Pride’s Thanksgiving Day performance videos since that day. As the SDSU Jackrabbit football team completed the march to the Football Championship Series title game in Frisco, Texas on Jan. 8, the pride was in every game. And the band will be at Jan. 8, exciting the fans and encouraging the Jacks.

Reflecting on his great first semester with Pride, Hofer sums up the experience best.

“Music brings people together, and Pride has reinforced that for me in so many ways – from the sheer impact a vibrant wall of music has on the atmosphere of a football match to the strong bonds forged with my fellow of the group!”