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5 Festive Holiday Parades for Marching Bands

I’m one of those people who gets excited when the stores put up Christmas lights beside pumpkins. I can’t wait for the holiday music to start playing on a loop and I buy wrapping paper in bulk. We get a few short weeks when it seems as if the world is just a bit cheerier and people a little kinder. I want to soak it all in for as long as possible! One of my favorite ways to kick off the magic of the season is with a holiday parade. Lively marching bands, exquisite floats and giant balloons make for big smiles and happy hearts!  Here are 5 festive holiday parades for marching bands.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is the world’s largest! Bands of all shapes and sizes can apply to entertain crowds of nearly 3 million live spectators and 50 million television viewers. It’s packed with celebrities, floats, performances, and of course, those giant floating bits of pop culture! Applications are usually due no later than April 1st for the following year’s parade so start planning now.

Hollywood Christmas Parade

If you’re looking for a warmer parade route, think about sunny southern California and the Hollywood Christmas Parade. This one is held the Sunday after Thanksgiving and bands of all types are welcome to apply. Participation is based on a variety of criteria, including musicianship, marching ability, uniqueness and entertainment value. Bands must also be able to perform field show-type maneuvers while marching.

This parade promises to be packed with star power and pageantry so be sure to submit your application by the February 1st deadline of the parade year.

Nashville Christmas Parade

The Nashville Christmas Parade has been a Tennessee tradition since 1927. It includes celebrity appearances, elaborate floats, balloons and performing groups. The parade route travels the “Musical Mile” with hundreds of thousands of spectators ready to cheer on your group! It’s a great way to kick off Christmas – country style!

6abc Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade

Nearly 100 years old, the 6abc Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade is the oldest in the country! Balloons, floats and fan favorites are the hallmarks of this iconic Philadelphia event, along with talented marching bands and performers. There are spots for 19 talented bands of 90 or more!

America’s Thanksgiving Parade® in Detroit

Finally, mark the start of the holiday season with a Michigan tradition! The America’s Thanksgiving Parade® Detroit starts bright and early as hundreds of thousands of spectators line historic Woodward Avenue. They’ll watch as colorful floats, gigantic balloons and thunderous marching bands pass. Your band can take part in the fun and excitement based on their performances and quality of music as well as overall presentations. It’s a unique, once in a lifetime experience sure to set the mood for a joyful holiday.

Holiday parades are a great performance opportunity for marching bands and performance groups. There’s nothing like a live crowd or a chance to be in front of a televised audience. When the department store trees go up this year, think of them as a cheerful reminder that the holidays are almost here. Hopefully they’ll inspire you to kick off the magic of the season by planning your performance trip to a holiday parade!

Marching Band Competitions

When our son joined the high school band, I had visions of Friday night lights and a rousing drum beat calling to the crowd at our high school football games. I imagined the tattoo accompanying the cheerleaders and the military precision of a halftime show. I didn’t envision countless hours of summer practice and daily practices once school resumed. Not having a background in music, I didn’t understand why all the fuss.

Now with a year under my belt as an official “band mom,” I get it. His band isn’t JUST a spirit band- it’s a competitive band (and a darn good one, too!). Just as the football team practices and prepares for a shot at the playoffs, the band trains for its big dance at the Bands of America regional competition. Our high school participates in the southeast regional, but there are marching band competitions across the country. This fall, 22 Bands of America (BOA) Championships will be held throughout the U.S.

What is Bands of America?

Bands of America is a Music for All program with more than one million alumni. It was created in 1976 as “Marching Bands of America” and renamed in 1984. In 2006, it merged with the Music for All Foundation to become the program we know today. Music for All’s mission is “to create, provide, and expand positively life-changing experiences through music for all.” Bands of America plays a huge part in reaching this lofty goal!

What are the Bands of America Events?

BOA offers several participation levels for bands of different sizes. All are exceptional venues for amazing performances and are evaluated by experts.

Regional Championships

Regional Championships are complete, one day championships with educational events. As many as 32 bands can compete, with 10 advancing to the evening finals.

Super Regional Championships

Super Regional Championships are two-day, amped up events that allow up to 84 bands to compete (52 on Friday and 32 on Saturday). Two panels judge the preliminaries followed by a 14-band final competition on Saturday evening.

Grand National Championship

The BOA Grand National Championships is a three-day, preliminary, semi-finals and finals event held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It is touted as the nation’s most exciting marching band event open to all high school bands on a first-come, first-served basis.

Where and When are Bands of America Events Held?

There are 22 marching band competitions from September 21st through November 9th across the country, so chances are good there’s a BOA event near you. States include:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia

How Much Does it Cost to Participate in Bands of America?

The short answer is, it depends on which competition you choose and if you want to include extras. Regional championships have an early season base price of $700 and a regular season price of $875. Super Regional Championships have a base price of $875. The Grand National Championships base price is $975. Sunday clinics may be available for an additional cost of $275.

Why Should Our Band Apply for Bands of America?

Bands of America Championships are nationally recognized as premier high school marching band competitions and listed on the 2019-2020 National Association of Secondary School Principals as an approved program for students. They are stunning displays of skill and pageantry. Beyond all of this, they are the playoffs for which our kids have trained so hard. Find the BOA event that makes sense for your band and showcase your students’ incredible talent on a national stage!