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May 9, 2008

Renowned Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums to perform in 82 Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade®

The Fifes and Drums of Colonial Williamsburg will perform in the “Longest Running Show on Broadway” – the 82nd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® - on Thursday, Nov. 27 in New York City.

"We are delighted to accept Macy’s invitation to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums,” said Colin Campbell, president of Colonial Williamsburg in announcing the group’s participation. “The Macy’s Parade is a national showcase and Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums will be right at home in this uniquely American holiday tradition.”

Colonial Williamsburg’s musical ambassadors celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2008. Fifty fifers and drummers – one for every year of their anniversary – will participate in the Macy’s Parade.

The Parade is two and a half miles in length and steps off at 9 a.m. at 77th Street and Central Park West and ends at 34th Street and Herald Square. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be seen by an audience of three-and-a-half million on the streets of New York City and an additional television audience of more than 40 million during the Parade’s broadcast on NBC.

“We are excited to be a part of this major event,” said Tim Sutphin, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of historic events. “Performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be a highlight of our 50th anniversary year.”

In April, the Foundation announced that the Fifes and Drums 50th will make its first European appearance at the Basel Tattoo, Basel, Switzerland, July 15-19. Participation in this prestigious event is by invitation only and the Fifes and Drums have been the only U.S. group asked to participate. The tattoo consists of 12 international bands, massed Pipes and Drums, with top-class formations.

Founded in 1958, the Fifes and Drums perform in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area nearly 500 times during the year in daily programs from mid-February through December and during special programs observing major holidays.

To celebrate this milestone anniversary, several signature events are scheduled during 2008:

  • Drummer's Call, May 16-18. Colonial Williamsburg’s corps and guest fife and drum units from across the country perform military field music during special programs this weekend.
  • July Fourth. On Independence Day, current and former members of the Fifes and Drums will meet for a reunion. The alumni will perform alongside the current Fifes and Drums in a concert prior to the fireworks on Friday, July 4.
  • Grand Illumination, Dec. 7. Guests to this holiday celebration will be treated to a special concert by the Fifes and Drums.

    The Fifes and Drums are comprised of boys and girls ages 10-18 from the local community. Nearly 100 youths perform as members of two units: a junior and a senior group. Junior group members train while waiting for a “front-line” vacancy in the senior group. Each member on average receives two periods of instruction and participates in two full rehearsals each week. The senior members enjoy a busy travel schedule as well, performing at special events outside the Historic Area.

    A quasi-military unit, the present Fifes and Drums follows 18th-century practice by using school-aged children with the exception of the drum major. Members pass tune and marching requirements to advance through the rank system that begins at recruit. Field musicians were vital to commanders as the sole means of relaying orders during battle. Whenever companies were mustered into regiments, company musicians were similarly massed into Field Music. In this formation they were responsible, under the drum major’s direction, for marching the regiment in proper cadence and for beating daily ceremonies – Reveille, the General, the Assembly, the Retreat and the Tattoo.

    The world-renowned military musicians have represented Colonial Williamsburg throughout the country, including performances at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Lexington and Concord 225th Celebration in Boston and the New-York Historical Society. In addition, the Fifes and Drums performed for several events commemorating America’s 400th Anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas at Jamestown, including Landing Party Festivals at six east coast ports of call during the Godspeed Sail, the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and His Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and America’s 400th Anniversary Weekend. The group’s first appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was in 1993.

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®,” a dramatic live street theater presentation, is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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