For the 18th year in a row, the Chippewa Valley High School Big Reds marching band participated in America’s Thanksgiving Parade in downtown Detroit. The Big Reds played songs such as “Do You Hear What I Hear” and “Uptown Funk.”

For the 18th year in a row, the Chippewa Valley High School Big Reds marching band participated in America’s Thanksgiving Parade in downtown Detroit. The Big Reds played songs such as “Do You Hear What I Hear” and “Uptown Funk.”

Photo provided by Tim Hoey


CVHS marching band performs in Thanksgiving parade for 18th time

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published November 27, 2018

 The Chippewa Valley High School marching band practices Nov. 20.

The Chippewa Valley High School marching band practices Nov. 20.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

CLINTON TOWNSHIP/DETROIT — Temperatures in the low 20s on Thanksgiving morning couldn’t freeze out the Chippewa Valley High School Big Reds marching band.

For close to two decades, the band has made an appearance in America’s Thanksgiving Parade in downtown Detroit.

Director of Bands Tim Hoey said this year’s performance marked the 18th straight year that the 140-member band has been in the parade after its debut in 2001.

The Big Reds marched down Woodward Avenue for an hour and a half with a rotation of four songs: “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “Christmas on Parade,” “Seven Nation Army” and “Uptown Funk.”   

“Apart from the weather, everything went well. It makes it a challenge to play in tune,” Hoey said. “The weather was problematic. The valves on the brass instruments freeze. We taped hand warmers to the valve casings on brass instruments and that usually gets them playing.”

The parade, which aired locally on WDIV-Local 4, included a one-hour national broadcast that reached more than 190 major cities across the country.

“This was the most watched event of the school year for us,” Hoey said. “Over a million people saw us, either on TV or live. At a football game, we might get a couple thousand. In terms of number of viewers, this is the biggest.”

Hoey added that the Big Reds are the longest-running participating band in Detroit’s Thanksgiving parade.

“It takes a village to pull a performance like this off,” he said. “We’re very blessed with a strong booster club and supportive administration. It takes all of those elements to run a successful band program.”

In past years, Hoey has received phone calls from folks who are looking to move to the area and want a school with a strong band program.

“They’ll say ‘We see you on TV and it was awesome,’” he said.

The 3.2-mile parade route proceeded south along Woodward Avenue toward downtown. It concluded at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Congress Street, just past Campus Martius Park.

“It’s fantastic being in the parade,” Hoey said. “Usually when the students perform at halftime shows, they are seperated a good bit from the audience and don’t hear the audience reaction. When you’re on the street and close to the audience, it’s very positive feedback for the kids. You don’t really get to see the audience reaction when you’re watching on TV.”

In order to march in the parade, an application and a video of the band was submitted to The Parade Company in the spring.

“They review all the entries, but don’t take all of the bands that apply,” Hoey said.

When asked what the most satisfying part of his job as a band director is — and what it’s like to see his students perform in big events like the parade — Hoey said, “It’s a unique job because I get the kids for four years as opposed to a math teacher who only has them for a year. It’s nice watching them grow up and becoming strong musicians and responsible adults.”

Prior to Thanksgiving, the group had three practices dedicated to its parade performance. Its final practice on Nov. 20 was split between rehearsing for the parade and for the Chippewa Valley football state final game on Nov. 24 at Ford Field.

Needless to say, it was a busy week for the band, with two key performances in three days.

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to do it and always have a good time,” Hoey said.

Additional local bands in the parade were from Dakota, Fraser, Troy Athens and Warren Mott high schools.