NEW YORK — While you most likely awoke to the smells of turkey and stuffing in your oven on Thanksgiving Day, three Copperas Cove High School Copperettes had so many butterflies in their stomachs they could not have eaten if they wanted to.

Princess Sanchez, Niomi Charmant and Lauren Castaneda were in New York City pulling on their dancing shoes and preparing to dance live for a television audience of more than 5 million people watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC.

Princess Sanchez said the experience was everything she expected it to be.

“It was like how they show it in the movies but just very surreal, like I couldn’t believe I was actually there,” she said, her voice getting higher as she became giddy. “What caught me by surprise was how they completely changed the dance routine for some of us girls a couple of days before the parade and we had to learn it in a matter of hours right before going on live.”

The girls were selected to dance in the parade based on a Spirit of America clinic they attended over the summer.

Six-hundred-fifty dancers from across the U.S. were chosen, received the music and dance moves in October, and arrived in New York the Sunday before Thanksgiving to begin practicing together as a group.

Charmant said the 25 to 30 hours of practice leading up to the event was grueling.

“Just straight drilling through dances all day with no free time,” she said. “Practices didn’t end until 11 p.m. and having to wake up at 6 a.m. the next day was very challenging.”

Sanchez agreed it was difficult getting up on time and getting to practice after only having about two to three hours of sleep.

“You had to be there on time, no ifs, ands or buts,’ Sanchez said. “Not having enough time to finish a meal before you’re called back into formation to dance your part. … So you hardly ever got the time to finish your meal.”

But despite the sleep, food and time deprivation, the dancers’ eyes twinkled when they reflected on their week dancing in the Big Apple. What was most memorable for Sanchez, a small town Texas girl? The answer is “everything.”

“The bright lights. The busyness of the streets. The noise. The people,” she said, drifting off into her memories of a spectacular experience. “Meeting other dancers from all over the country and the actual parade, waving to everyone and the big smiles on the little kids’ faces as they lined the streets waving back at me was especially meaningful. I used to watch it on television and dream about being in it and how it would be, but now, I made that dream come true,”

Charmant agreed that being in the parade made all of the sacrifices worthwhile.

“I will never forget the day I got to perform in front of 50 million people,” Chamant said. “Other than it being cold and seeing many famous people, I got to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”

Sanchez agreed the experience “was the craziest and most amazing thing” she has ever been apart of.

“I was so sleep deprived and at times, wanted to give up. But I pushed myself and I knew in the end, it would all be worth it to have this experience,” Sanchez said. “The hard work; the lack of sleep; the endless hours of practicing in the cold. … It was all worth it and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Truly, a once in a life time experience and dream come true.”

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