NEW YORK — Following Saturday’s football game against Columbia, the Big Red Marching Band and Cornell Cheerleaders paraded from Rockefeller Center to the Cornell Club on 44th Street and 5th Avenue in the biennial Sy Katz ’31 Parade. President Martha E. Pollack was the Grand Marshal and led the way, followed by hundreds of alumni, family and friends.
Started in 1972 by Seymour “Sy” Katz ’31, the parade featured over 100 band members this year as they played “Give My Regards to Davy.” Passersby lined up on the sidewalks of Manhattan to capture the march on their cell phones, which ended with a concert by the band in front of the Cornell Club.
“Our father [Sy] had a dream — he thought every good marching band should have a parade,” Alice Katz Berglas ’66, Katz’s daughter, said in a speech. “No other Ivy has a parade in New York City.”
Katherine Curtis ’19, the band’s drum major, climbed up a ladder and raised her arms above the band. Known as “the only real marching band in the Ivy League,” the band played while singing, dancing and tossing drumsticks in the air. During “Pinball Wizard,” band members played their instruments while lying on the ground.
Their march down Fifth Avenue is the best possible publicity for the University, according to Alice Katz. “[Sy] wanted strangers walking down 5th Avenue to say, ‘What’s that coming at me? Cornell.’”
Alumni watched the performance from the windows of the Cornell Club. Cornellians in the parade wore flashing red hats, necklaces and bracelets. The band awarded President Pollack with a band hat.
The parade ended with the alma mater and acapella “Evening Song.” Band members put their instruments on the ground to sing and sway with arms around each other. Moments of silence followed as seniors hugged each other and cried.
The band members traveled for 11 hours to and from New York, laughing and playing games during the bus rides. They call each other by their band nicknames, like Lake, Pop and Gummy.
On Saturday, they spent nine hours rehearsing on the baseball field, tailgating before the game, taking breaks from their instruments to dance and play during halftime, where they outnumbered Columbia’s band fivefold.
“Each section of the band has its own unique and distinct personality,” Peter Li ’19, a subsection leader of the drumline, told The Sun. “But when everyone puts on their uniforms, we all become one, united in music and spirit.”
After the concert, the band and cheerleaders ate dinner on the fifth floor of the Cornell Club. Katz thanked alumni, staff, volunteers and the New York Police Department for making the parade possible. She passed pamphlets and kazoos around the room before addressing the band directly.
“Thank you for the magic you created in New York,” she said. “Remember that when we have to trade in our brass and winds for kazoos, this is now our parade too.”