The Big Red Marching Band led several hundred enthusiastic Cornellians down Fifth Avenue during the 40th Seymour "Sy" Katz '31 parade Nov. 10 in New York City after the Cornell vs. Columbia football game.
The biennial event, known as the "shortest parade with the longest history," was conceived by Katz to applaud the Big Red Marching Band, the largest in the Ivy League.
"The original reason for doing it was to celebrate the band as the brand," said Bob Katz '69, son of the parade's founder and namesake. "They deserve a showplace of their own, where it's not about the hockey team or the football team. They're a great manifestation of the university."
From its start at Rockefeller Center to the Cornell Club, the parade filled more than three city blocks with a mélange of brass, drums and -- per tradition -- kazoos.
"His dream was probably this," said Sy Katz's daughter, Alice Katz Berglas '66. "He loved the city, he loved Cornell, and he loved the Big Red Band because he said they're the best PR the school could ever have."
This year, the parade placed a special emphasis on reaching out to alumni families with the launch of a Little Red Parade for children under age 10. "This time my head is with the little ones because I think that's the future and that's the fun," said Berglas, whose family was in New York City to celebrate.
The parade also offered such Cornell alumni as Ryan Cote '91 a chance to reconnect. "This is a good chance for old friends to get together," said Cote. "It's like a reunion."
For former drum majors from the classes 1972 to 1984, all of whom were named honorary grand marshals, the parade served as a special homecoming.
"It's the first time I've been back since I led the parade," said Cameron Fish '82, who served as the Big Red Band's drum major in 1981.
Cathy Vicks Jerrard '80, who held the same post in 1979, agreed. "It feels wonderful," she said. "It's a great reunion. There's a lot of spirit."
That enthusiasm was personified by current Big Red Marching Band drum major Jessica Reno '13. When the parade came to an end in front of the Cornell Club on 44th Street, Reno led the Big Red Band in a concert that included songs like "Dancing With Myself" and "Carry on Wayward Son."
"It's the most amazing thing I've ever experienced. It's just so incredible leading this group of 200 of my closest friends who I just love," Reno said following the band's performance. "They've been my family. They're what I love about Cornell. The band has made my Cornell experience. I can't fathom Cornell without them."
Dan Huttenlocher and Cathy Dove, dean and vice president, respectively, of the Cornell NYC Tech campus, served as grand marshals for the evening. Huttenlocher said that the parade's large turnout didn't come as a surprise. "Cornellians are amazingly dedicated to the institution," he said.
For James Loprest '82 and his wife, Teresa, attending the parade has become a family tradition. "We actually live in New York, so we try to make the Sy Katz parade whenever it comes," he said. Introducing his daughters Eleanor and Zoe, Loprest added, "They've actually been in the Sy Katz parade before. They were a lot smaller. They were in a stroller."
Claire Lambrecht '06 is a freelance writer in New York City.