Excitement is running high with the 190 members of the Prospect Marching Knights.
Already in New York for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the band received even more good news Tuesday, when senior Drum Major Hannah Thornton of Mount Prospect was named as the one band member in the parade to win the Bob Hope Band Scholarship.
Thornton will be featured during the live telecast of the parade and, as drum major, she will lead the Marching Knights in the unit just before Santa. The parade will be broadcast locally from 9 a.m. to noon on NBC 5.
Thornton had submitted a lengthy essay, which drew the attention of the judges for its creativity and ability to reflect the values of Bob Hope.
"This is craziness," said Thornton, 17. "I'm just a kid who likes to write. I've never had anyone read my writing before, so to see that other people were emotionally moved is quite the honor."
Thornton also was selected on the basis of her musical ability -- she plays trumpet in the symphonic and pep bands, and French horn in the orchestra -- leadership initiative and commitment to community service.
Started in 2003 by the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation -- the year Bob Hope died at the age of 100 -- the scholarship is designed to honor one outstanding band member and their school band program participating in the parade.
Linda Hope, Bob Hope's oldest daughter, was unable to make Tuesday's awards ceremony, but she wrote Thornton a personal letter.
"I've read a lot of essays over the years, and I have to tell you that your essay was one of the best," Linda Hope wrote. "I know that my parents would be very proud that such an accomplished and caring young woman was this year's scholarship recipient."
It was the second year in a row that the honor went to a local person. Last year, Fox Lake resident Rose Craig, a drum major with University of Illinois' Marching Illini band and a former Grant High School student, received the award.
This is Prospect's third appearance in the parade. The band performed in 1992 and 2002. For this year's performance, students will perform "Buddy and Santa's Flight" from the movie "Elf." At the end of the parade, the band also will perform at the intersection of Broadway, Sixth Avenue and 34th Street in Herald Square.
As the result of her award, Thornton won a $10,000 scholarship, with an additional $10,000 going to Prospect's band program. That's double the amount given in prior years.
Each year, 200 bands apply for a spot in the nation's biggest holiday parade -- which draws 3 million people along the two-mile route and 50 million more on TV -- yet only 10 bands make it. The Marching Knights were chosen 18 months ago to represent the state of Illinois.
"I'm extremely proud of Hannah -- and of our kids," said Chris Barnum, Prospect band director. "They've worked extremely hard and are so excited to be part of this iconic American event."