The 2021 Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade has taken on a new name for Bensalem’s Kathy Truesdale, who is titling it the “Grand Grand Parade.”
As Truesdale sings a classic holiday tune with the Bucks County Women’s Chorus on the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, her granddaughter Courtney Drennen, of Langhorne, will also appear in the annual tradition with the Millersville University Marauder Marching Band.
“It’s the granddaughter and the grandmother,” said Truesdale. “This is a shared experience and I feel like it’ll start a family story for my granddaughter to tell future generations. Isn’t that part of what our legacy is supposed to do? To leave these kinds of stories?”
Drennen, an alum of Neshaminy High School, and Truesdale were supposed to perform in the 2020 parade with their respective groups, but the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the Marching Band and Women’s Chorus were unsure if they’d be invited back for 2021, both received the good news.
“I’m super excited to be able to do it with her,” said Drennen. “It’s really cool to have another family member also be in the parade. I know my family’s really excited to be able to go. We don’t normally go, we always watch it on TV.”
Participating in such an event ties in perfectly with this grandmother-granddaughter relationship.
“A big thing for us is music,” said Drennen. “She always comes to all my concerts, all my shows, especially throughout high school. When the high school would put on a play, her and I would go together. I go to all her concerts when she sings, too.”
Truesdale agreed that music and theater always brought her and her eldest grandchild together. However, the Thanksgiving Day Parade marks their first time performing in something at the same time. It also marks their first time ever performing in the parade.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Truesdale, a “charter member” of the Bucks County Women’s Chorus, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2022. “My granddaughter can say that her grandmother was courageous enough that when life presented an opportunity or an obstacle, she didn’t sit back and say, ‘No, I can’t really do that.’ She chose to accomplish new things. In a way, I see this as modeling for my grandchildren.”
Bucks County Women’s Chorus founder and director Pat Guth shared that 50 of the group’s 84 members will be performing “Sleigh Ride” at the parade. Though members boast varying degrees of experience, all share a deep passion for music and are excited to sing as an in-person unit after over a year of Zoom rehearsals.
“Being able to participate in this 101-year-old event in our hometown area makes up for some of the things we’ve had to cancel this year and for the concerts and other events we missed during the 15 months we were unable to sing together,” said Guth, who has landed the chorus amazing opportunities over the past decade, including singing at the White House and Empire State Building, at Parx Casino as backup for rock band Foreigner, and overseas every other year.
As for the Marauder Marching Band, Drennen said its theme is inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Music includes favorites from Hamilton and In the Heights, as well as memorable costumes. Drennen, who played clarinet as a freshman and sophomore at Millersville, took on the role of band coordinator for her junior and senior years due to a knee issue that prohibited her from marching. She photographs the band, manages social media and more.
In the parade, two of the drum majors will be dressed as the Schuyler sisters from Hamilton. They needed a third, so Drennen will don an elaborate yellow dress with matching yellow crocs underneath. Like her grandmother, participating in the parade is a thrilling opportunity. Drennen has boasted a passion for music since her elementary school days, when she began to learn violin.
“And then in high school, I did band, orchestra, choir. I did all of it,” she said.
Drennen is an education major at Millersville with goals of teaching elementary school students post-graduation.
“Probably back home, close to Neshaminy,” she said. “I want to be able to inspire kids to go and do big things out in the world.”
Truesdale is supportive of Drennen’s dream, and regularly lets her use the garage for Zoom sessions and activities.
“She’s always coming up with projects for the kids to make at school,” said Truesdale. “She’ll head to mom mom’s house to put the packages together. She knows she can rely on mom mom and pop pop.”
This mom mom has been busy with a project of her own for her group’s inaugural parade appearance.
“We’ve all been ferociously making scarves because we all have to match,” said Truesdale. “We’re hand-knitting or crocheting within the organization red and green scarves for the entire Bucks County Women’s Chorus.”
Catch Truesdale and Drennen with the Bucks County Women’s Chorus and Millersville University Marauder Marching Band in the 6ABC/Dunkin’ Donuts Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 25. The parade will be nationally broadcasted beginning at 9 a.m.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com