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(from left) Presleigh Barber, Lia Ramirez and Alanna DeLeon take a selfie at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (contributed photo)

For many people, part of Thanksgiving day is taking small breathers between bouts of food preparation to take a look at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. For three Refugio ISD cheerleaders, they instead got to be a part of the nationally televised parade.

Lia Ramirez, Alanna DeLeon and Presleigh Barber were the three Refugio cheerleaders who were able to go to New York to participate in the parade.

The cheerleaders were able to participate thanks to Spirit of America Productions, who organized two different performances during the parade. Ramirez, DeLeon and Barber were part of the CHEER performance, which consists of cheerleaders from around the country. This performance is done yearly at the parade.

“I get a certain number of invitations every year that I can offer to the girls,” said Refugio cheer coach Hannah LaFond. “I was actually in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade when I cheered my senior year so it was really fulfilling to get to see three of my own go and do all of those fun things. ... Those three in particular are small town girls. So for them to go to a big city and see wonderful Broadway shows ... for them to do that was really fulfilling. I think it challenged them a little bit too. Pushed them out of their comfort zones, got them to try new things, so that’s really great.”

LaFond thanks the people who helped support them. The money to get the cheerleaders to New York came out of pocket and was not paid for by the school. The cheerleaders did events like bake sales and raffles to raise money for the trip.

According to LaFond, over 500 cheerleaders participated in the parade on a first come, first serve basis. To qualify, the cheerleaders had to be a senior cheerleader in good standing.

DeLeon had put some thought into whether she would go, however after speaking it through with her mother, the DeLeon family agreed it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Ramirez admits to being very nervous as the day grew closer.

“Getting there, it wasn’t terrible, I was in New York, we went to rehearsal and everything was all good,” said Ramirez. “Then the day of the parade was when everything started to become a reality. The cameraman and the announcers were like ‘less than two minutes before we go live to the world’ and my stomach just kind of shrunk and I was like ‘oh my gosh, I’m really here.’”

DeLeon had a similar experience. “My first thought was ‘oh my gosh, this is real.’ On the day of, when we were marching, the girl that was next to me, we looked at each other and we were in shock that we were actually in the Macy’s Parade,” said DeLeon.

“I was nervous about messing up on national television,” said Barber. “... but I was also excited to see everybody along the streets cheering for us. Just to be in it, that was one of my dreams since I was little, was to be on national television in the parade. I’m glad I got to have one of those little girl dreams come true.”

The girls all mentioned that the change in climate was something they had to get used to. The temperature in New York is much different from what they experience in Refugio.

Ramirez mentions that the cheerleaders were allowed free time as well to enjoy the new locale.

“I honestly just enjoyed walking around and just being there,” said Ramirez, “I really liked that.”

DeLeon enjoyed Broadway and noticed that the people in New York acted much differently from what she was used to.

“Everybody just walks around and talks to everyone, even if you don’t know someone,” said DeLeon. “It was a really nice experience.”

Although they were not able to see much of the parade at the time, on account of being a part of it, DeLeon enjoyed the Snoopy float the most out of the ones she had seen. Ramirez enjoyed the large float depicting the character Grogu from the Disney Plus television series “The Mandalorian.” Barber’s favorite float was the one depicting the titular protagonist of “Spongebob Squarepants.”

“One of the disadvantages of being in the parade is you don’t get to watch the parade,” said LaFond, “so you only get to see the people around you.”

“If anyone else gets the opportunity to participate in the Macy’s Parade and they are unsure about it, just go,” said DeLeon. “It’s completely worth it. It’s different and a big risk to take being away from home for so long, but I say it’s completely worth it. It’s a once in a lifetime experience that I loved.”

Although the three cheerleaders are now home, they all agree that the memories they made participating in the parade are memories they will never forget.

•mtamez@mysoutex.com•

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