Robin Flood was making plans to celebrate Thanksgiving in Boston with her family when she received the invitation last month.
As the director of Long Reach High School's dance program, it was an important change of plans: The school's dance company was being invited to participate in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
"Just to be invited is a big deal," Flood said, never dreaming that at such short notice she could get the majority of the group to go.
She had to cancel her Thanksgiving plans, and she found that her students were equally motivated to switch gears.
"It went from four to eight to 10, 12, and then all of a sudden 15," Flood said. Eventually, 15 members of the 17-member company decided to attend.
Performing at a large event is nothing new for the Long Reach troupe, which has danced at events such as the Morgan State Dance Festival and the Maryland State Dance Festival, and at Walt Disney World.
Flood said the group has performed for several years at Naval Academy football's Halftime Extravaganza event, and one of the organizers there got the contract for the Macy's parade. They thought the Long Reach team would be a perfect fit, and extended the invitation.
The troupe of juniors and seniors will get up at 1 a.m. Thanksgiving Day to have their hair and makeup done before rehearsals at 4:30 a.m., followed by lining up on the parade route at 6 a.m.
The 15 dancers will be part of 25 in Macy's dance company. They will open the parade in Herald Square — appearing with Matt Lauer of NBC's "Today" show — then they'll be bused to the end of the parade to dance around Santa Claus' sleigh.
"They really have it timed down to the minute," Flood said of the parade organizers.
The dancers won't wear anything proclaiming they are from Maryland or from Long Reach High School. Instead, they'll have costumes provided by Macy's.
"We had to tell them our measurements," said Flood, who received packets of information and forms when the group accepted the invitation. Organizers had thought of everything, from hotel accommodations and rehearsal schedules to meal plans.
"The rehearsal schedule is going to be grueling," Flood said. But she's confident the company will keep up. "They're a good, hardy group of girls. They work hard."
On Monday, the company will leave Long Reach High School in the early afternoon to attend evening rehearsals in New York. Tuesday and Wednesday will be taken up with rehearsal, though the group will get a chance to see the musical "Pippin."
"I couldn't ask for anything more for my senior year," said Carolyn Lamb, 17. "The eight-hour rehearsals are going to be awful. [But] it will be worth it in the end when I'm in the Macy's parade."
"I will prepare myself mentally," said Morgan Kennedy, 15, a junior, of the all-day rehearsals. "This is a professional dancer's life. Professional dancers do this all the time."
She also believes the anticipation and excitement of the event will help.
"I'm really excited about it, and that will get me through it," Morgan said. "All my family is getting together to watch us."
In addition to Carolyn and Morgan, dancers making the trip are Madison Basham, Summer Blachowicz, Ann Bonner, Lindsey Brockman, Keyla DeMatos, Sydney Grohe, Jamison Grohe, Megan Haley, Shontese Kidd, Heather McKay, Lauren Murphy, Marissa Shelby and Samantha Sikorski.
When they reach the end of the parade, the dancers will be whisked off to their hotel, where they'll board their bus home. They might even get back to Howard County in time for some leftovers.
"I did have a couple kids think we'll get back at 5 p.m. for dinner," Flood laughed. "I'm guessing 9 p.m. I'm curious to see how they get us out of New York."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun