They might not have 76 trombones or 110 cornets, but the Pickerington High School Central marching band has something only a handful of other bands in the nation can claim -- an invitation to the 2009 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

They might not have 76 trombones or 110 cornets, but the Pickerington High School Central marching band has something only a handful of other bands in the nation can claim -- an invitation to the 2009 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Macy's officials visited the school last week to make the surprise announcement, an event that brought the school's director of bands to tears.

"I sort of lost it when we found out," band director Mike Sewell said. "It was just a neat thing, especially since it was the fourth time and nobody has done that."

The last time the school participated was in 2001 when the parade celebrated its 75th anniversary. Only 11 high school bands from across the nation are invited to participate each year.

While the application process -- completed nearly 18 months ago -- is grueling, Sewell said the real hard work for the band and him is just beginning.

Sewell said he is now trying to pin down hotel reservations and secure transportation. Finding a bus company willing to lock in a rate a year and a half out has not been easy, he said.

"Who knows what the price of gas will be then?"

Once he has those details and an itinerary worked out, students will be responsible for raising their share of the trip's cost. While that amount is still unknown, Sewell said the band traveled to New York City last year for the National Veterans Day Parade at a cost of about $600 per student.

"It should be close to that," he said.

After he finishes working out the band's music and routines for next football season, Sewell said he will get to work on music for the parade and a 1.5-minute routine to perform at the parade.

"You're supposed to do something really special and visual and it's hard to do," he said. "We'll work on that next summer. I haven't even started thinking about it yet."

One of the hardest things by far, Sewell said, is knowing that the juniors and seniors now in the band won't be around to make the trip to New York.

"I have some kids who are juniors who aren't real pleased," he said. "But you don't get an invitation every year and once you get it, you can't turn it down. We'll do something special for the seniors that year, but it's hard for them and some of the parents are really upset about it."

While the response to the news of the invitation at the high school was exuberant, Sewell said the response from the junior high school band members was a bit more subdued.

"They are all just as excited as you can imagine," he said. "They don't know quite what to make of it yet."

Sewell said he will try to convey to the incoming band members that it was the hard work by those who preceded them that made the trip a possible.

"As I told the kids, it's a very reflective thing," he said. "It's an opportunity for kids to learn about paying it ahead and that they have a responsibility to maintain the legacy of the people before them."

msegaloff@thisweeknews.com