The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a holiday tradition for millions of Americans who wake up early each year to watch the oversized balloons and exciting performers traipse through the streets of New York.
    If Brownwood residents keep their eyes peeled, they might just glimpse three of their own among this year’s performers.
    Juniors Cora McNeese and Erin Dyer, along with freshman Ivy Townsend, will march Thursday morning with students from across the country as dancers with Spirit of America Productions. The Lionettes won the honor to participate by competing in a drill team camp at SMU this past June.
    Stacee Hetzel, director of the Lionettes, said her team spent three days at SMU learning routines, then picked two of them to perform on the camp’s final day. “They pick All-American individuals—which, Cora was an All-American individual,” Hetzel said. “And then they do All-American teams, and we were the All-American team. That qualifies you for different special performance opportunities, and one of them is Macy’s.”
    The Lionettes qualified to march in the parade last year as well, and Hetzel took the whole team to New York. “I had some that had never flown before, and were a little nervous,” Hetzel said. “But honestly, once we get there and Spirit of America … meets us in baggage, from then on it’s smooth sailing. They are so organized and so helpful.”
    Hetzel wasn’t able to accompany the three this year, but said they are in good hands. McNeese is the only one of the three who participated in last year’s parade. She said performers had to wake up at 3 a.m. for the parade.
    “You get dressed and you go downstairs and wait in a ballroom for like three hours,” she said. “Then we took the subway to the Museum of Natural History, which is where the parade starts.”
    McNeese said the week was fun and also challenging, with lots of rehearsal time. “It was definitely very hectic,” she said. McNeese was able to tour NYU, Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building while she was there.
    But Hetzel said the girls were definitely not on a weeklong vacation. “What they’re going to get from this is so much more than dance,” she said. “They are in classes, they are busy and everything they do starts early in the morning and does not end until very, very late at night.”
    For McNeese, Townsend and Dyer, though, the opportunity was more than worth it. “I’m really looking forward to being with my friends in New York and learning new dances,” Townsend said. “Just the experience, I think, will be good for me. I want to continue dance when I’m older.”
    McNeese will have her fingers crossed that the cameras catch a glimpse of the trio. “I hope so!” she said. “I kind of want to be on TV.”
    All three Lionettes said the community’s support has been instrumental in their New York trip. “I could list names forever,” McNeese said. “Everyone has been so supportive of us three … The community is really great.”
    “We would not be doing this without them,” Dyer said.
    The Lionettes have had other opportunities, like when they performed before a Spurs game several weeks ago in San Antonio. But the Macy’s parade, all agree, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
    “I would not have had any of these opportunities if I wasn’t on drill team,” McNeese said.
    The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade begins at 9 a.m. Thursday morning on NBC. The Lionettes' section of the parade is expected to pass in front of Macy's, and be televised, around 10:55 a.m.