The Faithful 150
Alumni and fans travel to New York for a glimpse of their favorite band
By Mariel Betancourt
On a chilly Thanksgiving morning that’s threatening snow and rain, the corner of 53rd Street and Broadway in New York City has become Bobcat central.
This is usually David Letterman’s turf; the Ed Sullivan Theatre is housed on this same block. But today, what matters is that both sides of the street belong to Ohio, and it’s obvious -- from the green and white caps and jackets to the Ohio University ear warmers and sweatshirts.
And New York City is taking notice. “There are so many people from Ohio!” one woman says as she walks by, and others want to know why.
“We have to be here to support the band,” says Edie Blough, of Dublin, Ohio. After the Monday Ohio-Miami football game, she hopped on a plane to catch the Marching 110’s performance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “My daughter’s in the band, and I just want to cheer them on.”
She laughs when she confesses she and her sister, Carol Rader, are not Ohio University graduates.
“We shouldn’t tell!” Blough says, and Rader smiles. “We are from the other Ohio school, but we are just as green in our blood now.”
All along the 2.5-mile parade route, families and friends line up for a chance to see their young dancers, singers and tumblers. In roughly two hours, this particular block will erupt in cheers when the Marching 110 passes by. Right now, though, they’re just waiting.
The Marching 110 last marched in the parade in 2000; this year, it’ll lead it, an honor that is not lost on its fans. The fact that it's back -- Macy’s has a rule that no band can march more than once every five years -- is also a testament to the members' skills.
“This is my son, Nick,” Bobbi Parsons says proudly, as she points to a giant pin with the face of a smiling band member. “He plays the saxophone, and he’s also president of Kappa Kappa Psi (the band service fraternity and sorority). He’s been waiting for this trip for four years!”
For some, the pilgrimage to this corner of Broadway has been easy, as they are alumni who live in the New York and New Jersey area. Others have traveled from all over Ohio, on their own or as part of a trip organized by the Ohio University Alumni Association. Still others have traveled even further -- from California and Georgia -- to see the Marching 110 play.
Last night, more than 150 of them gathered at the Sheraton on 53rd Street for a Bobcat Bash that functioned as a pep rally of sorts. President Roderick McDavis welcomed them with a loud cheer: “Are there any Bobcats in the house?”
The answer, of course, was a resounding yes.
There were not only Bobcat alumni in the house, but also Marching 110 members, who burst into the room with a noisy blast and blared their way into the party. For many, who hadn’t seen or heard the band in years, the music reminded them of a certain brick-paved street in a little town more than 500 miles away.
“Instantly, you’re transported back to the corner of Court Street,” says alumna Sarah Schneider, whose husband, Paul, marched in the band 22 years ago. “They sound as fabulous as they did then.”
And when the fabulous band marched by Thursday, sandwiched between a clown balloon and a turkey-shaped float, all Broadway boogied.
This party was long overdue. The green and white faithful had staked their corner before 7 a.m., and minute by minute, their anticipation grew. When the first balloon -- a speck of yellow down the street -- was spotted about 9:30 a.m., an excited murmur spread through the crowd.
By then a crowd 15 to 20 people deep had gathered. Children were ushered to the front by kind strangers, and folks in the back stood on stepladders for a better view. Whether from Ohio or the Big Apple, all had become friends during the wait.
When the first band came into view, 53rd and Broadway erupted in a frenzy of cheers. Cameras clicked, and video recorders documented every moment. Names were shouted, and everyone clapped.
No one else -- not country star LeAnn Rimes, not the Garfield balloon that had everyone chanting his name -- got this kind of reception here.
For Joanne Utley, a 1979 Ohio University alumna who lives in New York, the wait was worth it: “It’s good to see them back in the parade again.”
Mariel Betancourt, assistant editor of Ohio Today alumni magazine, was on assignment with the Marching 110 in New York City. This is her second story in a series about the band’s trip. To read the other stories, click here:
Part 1: The band prepares for the ultimate parade
Part 3: Bringing the funk to Herald Square
Diary: Trumpet-player Natalia Lavric shares photos and stories from New York
Photos: Marching 110 Macy's Parade Photo Gallery
Video: NBC coverage of Marching 110