VANDALIA – Millions of people across the country will tune in for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning.
And those in the Vandalia area have even more incentive to do so this year.
Jaden Evans, a senior cheerleader, will be performing in the parade with Spirit of America Productions, which brings together two groups of 650 cheerleaders from across the country for a performance that will be broadcast on NBC from 9 a.m.-noon on Thursday.
“It’s really nerve-racking knowing that people are going to be watching and recording me on TV,” Evans said. “I just hope that my face doesn’t get blown up, because I’ll look ridiculous.”
According to the Spirit of America website, NBC has exclusive rights to broadcast the organization’s performance, which will take place in Herald Square.
While in New York, Evans will be plenty busy.
She flew solo to the Big Apple on Saturday, and will enjoy a Broadway show, take the Statue of Liberty harbor cruise, attend a show at Radio City Music Hall, tour the Empire State Building and take in some New York City shopping in between cheer rehearsals.
“Hopefully, I get to see some famous people,” said Evans, who previously traveled to New York City in August of 2012. “Last time, I touched Snoop Dogg.”
Seniors who participated in a Universal Cheerleading Association summer camp held at the Fayette County Family YMCA were invited to be part of the production.
When Evans' acceptance came back in July, she at first had her hopes to attend the parade dashed by mom, but another family member stepped to make the trip happen.
“I really wanted to go, but my mom told me I wasn’t going to go. But then I talked to my grandpa about it,” Evans said. “He said he would help me pay for it if I really wanted to go, and if I felt as if I could keep up the amount of work it takes to be in the parade.”
Evans has been working on learning the five-minute routine in her spare time for several weeks.
She said the routine doesn’t include many moves that she wasn’t familiar with – having been a cheerleader at Vandalia for several years – and, as of last Thursday, she was pretty well set to perform.
“I have had to learn a five-minute dance on my own time,” Evans said. “We have practice whenever we get there.
“I have it pretty much down, but I will have four or five all-day practices up there.”
She’ll also get to meet plenty of new people, and said that she has been sending messages to her roommates, who are from California, Maine and New Hampshire, and is excited to meet them.
And with one more season of cheerleading at Vandalia Community High School, Evans is hopeful she can have one last impact on the squad.
“I’m excited to share my experience with all of my teammates when I get back,” she said. “Hopefully, I can bring some new things that I learn into our squad and our cheerleading program.”