By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
D. Alan Fowler’s participation in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade provides family memories
Fowler (left) was joined on his trip with his wife, Susan, (right) and youngest daughter, Grace (center). - photo by Special Photo

Thousands of people gathered in New York City on Nov. 23 for the 97th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. D. Alan Fowler was among the thousands as a participant by being selected to join the Band Directors Marching Band for the occasion. 

Fowler was included in the 900-plus applicants and was one of 415 band directors selected. 

Accompanying Fowler on the trip was his wife, Susan and youngest daughter, Grace, which added a “bonus” to the experience. 

“It’s very cool, because I like traveling and going places and taking my family places,” Fowler said. “So it meant my wife, my youngest daughter and I were going to spend a week in New York. That was exciting.” 

Fowler did more than just rehearse and perform in the parade. He and his family went sightseeing and toured the area while up there. 

But Fowler was not a complete stranger to New York City or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade festivities. 

In 2016, his oldest daughter, Katie Beth marched in the parade and, a year later, Fowler and his family visited the city again. 

However, this trip brought about different memories, particularly for Grace who was just 5 years old on the 2017 visit. 

Fast forward six years later, Grace is now 11.

Grace and Susan toured the city each morning while the band rehearsed, but had many family outings after rehearsal was over.

On Tuesday, the whole group went to see the Rockettes Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall. The next day, Fowler’s family attended a Broadway show, “Back to the Future,” because of Grace’s interest in time travel. 

Wednesday night, Fowler and his family saw Billy Joel “on his home turf” at Madison Square Garden.

Fowler and the band played at the 9/11 reflecting pool and went to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. 

Nothing topped seeing her father in the parade for Grace, but there was a second on the list. 

“The Taylor Swift Storyteller Exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design,” she said.

It was a particularly joyful moment for Fowler to see his daughter truly enjoy the city and what it has to offer.

“One of the coolest things as a dad it’s just neat seeing things with your kids. But she appreciated it more this time. And I asked her why she seemed to appreciate it more this time, and she said, ‘It’s because I can read,’” Fowler said. “That made a huge impact on me, because of course she can read. The other time, she was only experiencing what we pointed out to her and told her about. But here she could read the various plaques and the writings there in the memorial.” 

Another “bonus” for Fowler was reconnecting with one of his former students from when he taught at Eastside High. 

Kyla Clay, who graduated from Eastside in 2022, was in the parade as part of the Alabama A&M marching band. Fowler was intentional about seeing Clay, too.

“I knew I was going to look for her Thursday morning at the parade,” Fowler said. “When we walked into Radio City, the Alabama A&M dancers were dancing on stage. And I thought, ‘Wait a second. That means Kyla’s here.’” 

The two took a photo together when they were both in uniform to help remember the moment. 

Not only did Fowler have familiar faces with him on the trip, but he met new people through the Band Directors Marching Band. 

The theme for the Saluting America’s Band Directors project was “America’s band directors: We teach music. We teach life.” All the directors practiced Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning next to where Alexander Hamilton was shot. 

Plus, they rode a bus together each day to rehearsal. 

Being around like-minded individuals was surreal to Fowler.

“The camaraderie was palpable. It was really neat,” Fowler said. “Every time I rode a bus to rehearsal, I made it a point to sit with someone different. I talked with people from Texas, California, New Jersey, Tennessee and it was really neat to realize they were excited about going back and teaching their kids.” 

All the relationships — both familiar and new — are special to Fowler. And he is grateful for the experience of marching in a significant, national holiday event. 

But none of it would have been possible without Fowler’s interest in band in the first place. That is the whole reason Fowler and his family made the over 800-mile trip to New York City. 

More than that, though, Fowler remains grateful for all that band has given him over the years. 

“Somebody up there made the statement and they were selling T-shirts saying, ‘Band makes me strong.’ I think there’s something about being part of something bigger than yourself. I know I taught my kids — my own kids, my band students,” Fowler said. “I’m sitting here working, doing my job today, but I’m also preparing for community band rehearsal tonight. I look forward to going to that rehearsal every Monday night, because I know it’s a special part of the band members’ life. It’s just neat.”