CHAMPAIGN — With family in New Jersey, Elizabeth "Lizzy" O'Brien of Champaign has visited New York City before.
Three times, to be exact.
She's now on her fourth trip there, this time for a once-in-a-lifetime experience: marching with the Macy's Great American Marching Band in Thursday's 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
"I've been excited for months now because it's one of the biggest things I've done — we'll be on TV before millions of people," the 15-year-old Centennial High School sophomore said.
The band with 245 members from high schools in all 50 states will perform before an estimated 2.5 million live spectators, and another 50 million watching at home.
O'Brien has the first piccolo part; she's been playing the instrument since she was in fifth grade.
She played piccolo her freshman year in the Centennial marching band. She is now its drum major.
She applied to participate in the 2013 Macy's marching band last summer while attending a clinic for drum majors at Eastern Illinois University.
She doubts she will apply for future Macy's parades because, she said, she is paying "a lot of money" to do so this year.
O'Brien arrived in New York on Sunday and is staying at a New Jersey hotel with other members of the Great American band, a program organized by the Pennsylvania-based Music Festivals & Tours.
Band members have spent their days rehearsing "Macklehouse Medley" in an armory in New Jersey. When evening rolls around, they ride a charter bus into Manhattan, where the itinerary has included the Broadway hit "Matilda the Musical," Times Square and Rockefeller Center.
Back here, as drum major of the Centennial Marching Chargers, Lizzy enjoys teaching other band members.
"You are the student leader of the band and you have to set an example and you also conduct," she said. "I really like teaching people and seeing them start to understand things I taught them."
If you watch
-- What: The 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, featuring 15 giant character balloons, 30 floats, 1,600 cheerleaders and dancers, 900 clowns and 11 marching bands.
-- When: 9 a.m. to noon in all time zones.
-- TV: WAND (NBC).
-- Hosts: Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie.