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Zirpel to march in Thanksgiving parade

Kendra Zirpel, a Mitchell high school student, will be marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Anna Jauhola/Republic)

Thanksgiving this year will be unlike any Kendra Zirpel has ever experienced.

The 16-year-old Mitchell High School junior will trek down the crowded streets of Manhattan, N.Y., clarinet in hand, with millions of viewers watching, when she marches in the 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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“This is a huge honor and I’m very excited,” said Zirpel, who started playing the clarinet in the fifth grade.

On Thanksgiving Day, Zirpel will be marching with the Macy’s Great American Marching Band, which is represented by students from each state. She is one of three South Dakota students in the band, which has about 180 students and 245 members. The other South Dakotans who are making the trip attend Tea and Webster schools. Zirpel said she earned her spot by making all-state concert band last year.

“Most people have to submit a recording of a solo that Macy’s will judge, but I didn’t have to submit that recording,” she said, explaining her all-state band recognition was a big factor in her ticket. “So all I had to do was fill out the application they sent to me in the mail and I had to make a list of my accomplishments and achievements.”

This year is the eighth year the Macy’s Great American Marching Band will march in the parade. The group of students will rehearse for less than one week. It will play Christmas songs and a medley of pep-band adapted songs by Macklemore, a nationally known rap group.

Zirpel credits her mom, Teresa, and middle school band teacher, Julie Van Gorp, for her inspiration. Zirpel flies to New York on Saturday and returns to Mitchell on Nov. 29, Black Friday.

“We have a seminar that evening we get there, and a couple of days before the parade there’s some sight-seeing, but there are a lot of rehearsals and also an internationally renowned leadership seminar that Macy’s will be hosting for us,” said Zirpel, also a drum major for the Mitchell High School marching band. She also plays bari- tone saxophone for the school’s jazz and funk bands.

“I’m a little bit nervous because I’ve never flown alone before,” she said. “But I think it will be a lot of fun and worth it.”

The Macy’s Day Parade can be seen on NBC starting at 8 a.m. Thanksgiving Day. Nationwide, about 50 million viewers watch the parade, known for its giant balloons, floats, performers and Santa Claus ringing in the holiday season. It is televised for three hours.

There are about 8,000 participants who march in the parade. The route lasts about 3.5 miles and travels alongside the famous Central Park.