Donning bright blue uniforms, Lambert High School cheerleaders grinned, trying to keep their teeth from chattering in the cold as they walked through the streets of New York.
The blue was not their usual maroon, and instead of an ‘L’ in the center of their outfits, a yellow ‘M’ shined brightly in the sea of cheerleaders that filled Central Park West and Columbus Circle.
The lack of school color and the 32-degree weather didn’t matter though, as the south Forsyth school’s varsity competition cheering team joined hundreds of other cheerleaders in New York to perform in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, Nov. 23.
“We were freezing cold and in these little tights and uniforms and I couldn’t feel my feet and couldn’t bend my fingers,” said Lambert senior Dani Spera, “but just the smiles on all the people who were watching us was great and made it so worth it.”
The team, headed by Coach Brent Paige, was selected to perform earlier this year — news that Paige broke to the girls in June, surprising them with a letter that read: “In addition to the opportunity of performing with over 500 cheerleaders in our televised performance, we would like to offer your cheerleaders a featured section in the routine to highlight their skills. We are excited that your team will be joining us in New York City! We look forward to seeing you in November!”
Paige had kept the information a secret for several months prior to the announcement, which drew shrieks of excitement from the girls when they were finally told.
“At the end of last season, I sent in two videos of our competition routine from the past two years at state to a company that chooses and selects different cheerleading squads for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” Paige said. “Lo and behold, I got an email and a letter back about a month later that said we had been selected.”
In the parade, the girls were “the feature of the show,” Paige said, something that “was very cool to watch.”
“They were so busy that we barely got to see them,” Paige said. “They got into [New York] on Saturday and were in rehearsals Saturday, Sunday and Monday for about seven hours a day. They had lots of activities planned for them in their downtime, too. They went to a Broadway show, the Statue of Liberty one morning, the Rockettes — there was lots of stuff to keep them busy. The weather was really nice in New York except for the morning of the parade — it was about 32 degrees and the girls had to walk three miles before they even got to do the performance.”
Still, Paige said the girls enjoyed the experience.
“They were in the front row and they did a standing tuck [in the performance,]” he said. “I think the girls really enjoyed it and feel like they were highlighted and had a really good time.”
Spera, who told the Forsyth County News in June that she was thrilled with the opportunity to perform, said the experience was a great way to close out her high school cheering career.
“Going into it, we didn’t know what to expect or how long the week would feel,” she said. “Ending our cheer season the way we did [in competition] wasn’t ideal — we didn’t win, but all of us knew that going to New York was going to be so fun so that gave us something [to look forward to].
Added Spera: “When we got in front of Macy’s, it was all surreal and so worth it and amazing to have our whole team in the spotlight, and have our stunts from our actual routine this season put that on national TV. It was just the best experience ever.”