Resident receives a once in a lifetime experience at national parade

In the parade’s coldest day ever, the Marching Royal Dukes gave their all in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

Photo of Nicholas Conti (center, saxophone) performing during an event with the Marching Royal Dukes of James Madison University (Marching Royal Dukes/Special to The Sun).

By KRYSTAL NURSE

The Sun

Most people have a Thanksgiving tradition of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade through television sets. Some are able to watch it live in New York City, and others can say they were actually in it, like James Madison University senior and Mullica Hill resident Nicholas Conti.

Conti, a marketing major who has been playing the saxophone since fifth grade, performed following John Legend with his college’s band, the Marching Royal Dukes. With this year being the coldest parade on record with temperatures dipping to 19 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, Conti added it was still an experience he will never forget.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my musical and marching career,” said Conti. “It was a 2.5-mile parade and the cold didn’t help much.”

While he said he didn’t feel much of the cold because they were constantly moving and had hand warmers, the instruments felt it as they were “a little frozen up.”

Conti has been a part of the Marching Royal Dukes every year except his junior year, and this performance was the biggest thing he said he’s done in his marching band career.

“I would do it again,” said Conti. “It was awesome and such a fun experience.”

Prior to the parade, the band had several practices for its routine and when parade day arrived, members were up at 1 a.m. for dress rehearsal. The band, he said, was given opportunities to explore the Big Apple on Nov. 20 when it arrived that night, and the 23rd, before heading back down for a home game against the University of Delaware.

The band, he said, played the university’s fight song, “Robin Hood,” and “76 Trombones” throughout the parade and did “I Got Rhythm” during its televised performance. Band members were given moments to play and not play songs to allow for rest for the performance in front of Macy’s.

When it came time to appear on TV, Conti said, due to the position of the cameras, he wasn’t exactly seen, but his friends and family were still excited to hear he was performing.

Conti said his favorite part of playing in the parade was to see the reaction of the crowd and to interact with them. For the entire parade, he said the best part was seeing the way they do the logistics with the crowds, floats and performances.

“Seeing them blow up the balloons in-person the night before, and seeing the preparation for it because you watch it on TV every year, and it made me appreciate it much more than before,” said Conti.

While he did spend his entire Thanksgiving away from home, Conti said the university provided them with some money, and he and his friends went out to a restaurant for an impromptu Thanksgiving meal.

“It was a big change for me because, for my family, it’s a big holiday for us and I wasn’t home, so being able to celebrate with them made it special. It was different, but I definitely enjoyed it,” said Conti.

He added he was extremely thankful for his parents for providing him with the opportunity to go to James Madison and to go on the trip.