After waking at 12:30 a.m. for a dry run before the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, American Fork High School Marching Band members expected to slog through the event, overheated in their uniforms and worn down by fatigue.
Instead, the musicians felt energized by the crowds lining the parade route.
"It was nonstop screaming, people cheering for you," said Shelby Davis, a sophomore who plays clarinet. "Everybody was so excited, yet everybody was tired and it was hot."
With a focus that would make Buckingham Palace guards envious, the 262 band members marched for 2.5 miles through Manhattan, past Central Park, down Broadway through Times Square and ending at the Macy's store at Herald Square on 34th Street.
"I was kind of jealous of our band director," freshman trumpeter Cameron Rodee said. "He got to wave at everybody (the crowds)."
The musicians, who hadn't seen their instruments for a week while they were being transported to the Big Apple, played a dozen renditions of "A Salute to America's Finest," a medley of patriotic songs, as they marched along the parade route.
At Herald's Square, where only NBC had broadcasting rights, the band played "Macy's Tune," written especially for the event by John Neeham. Parade officials commissioned Al Temby to write the song's drill.
The band's 75 seconds of fame were broadcast to an estimated 35 million people.
They marched off playing the American Fork High School fight song.
Some 10,000 people marched in the parade. The parade's lineup also included three new balloons, 2,000 cheerleaders, 800 clowns, the Radio City Rockettes and 11 marching bands including the Virginia Tech Regimental Band playing in honor of the victims of last spring's campus shooting.
The new balloons were William Steig's swamp-loving ogre Shrek, Sesame Street's fairy-in-training Abby Cadabby and Hello Kitty Supercute, the cape- and tiara-wearing feline superhero.
"It was an awesome experience, just the crowd," said Wendy Jones, a mother who marched behind the band. "People were very supportive. We're not used to 1 million people being (on the streets) in Utah."
Band members said the big day went off without a hitch.
"We drilled so much it was almost like an automatic thing," Davis said.
"The kids did real well," said John Miller, the band's director. "They're flying miles high. I can't even begin to express how it felt walking down the street with so many people cheering and being supportive."
Miller said that during the parade, he had a flashback to his childhood.
"All the times I have watched this parade as a kid, and to actually have a band in the parade was an emotional moment for me."
Temperatures hovered around 60 degrees, initially a relief to the musicians who have played in rain and snow during competitions this year. But the sunshine and heat became uncomfortable.
"We put on Under Armour (athletic thermal underwear) in case it got cold," Davis said. "The uniforms are really thick and you sweat really bad. And the hats. They're black."
Students are scheduled to return to Utah today.
For many, it was their first trip to New York City, although the band is used to high profile events. They played in President Bush's 2005 Inauguaral Parade. While in New York, they visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, NBC television studios and Radio City Music Hall.
They took a bus tour of Upper Manhattan and a dinner cruise, said Stephannie Cottle, another parent who chaperoned the teens.They celebrated their parade effort with a traditional Thanksgiving feast that night at the Liberty House Restaurant in Jersey City.
Contributing: Associated Press