Back when Brenda Pennock was in high school, being a member of the marching band meant belonging, sharing camaraderie and participating in a fun activity that she loved.
For decades after high school, she thought she would never experience that again.
But, reliving her high school glory days is now a dream come true for the Meadow Pointe resident, since she joined a St. Pete-based band called The Greater St. Petersburg Area Awesome Original Second Time Arounders Marching Band, also known as the “Second Time Arounders.”
According to its website, the band is known to be the largest permanent adult marching band in the world, with more than 400 members. It’s thought to be the first of its kind — started 37 years ago — open to those who played an instrument, twirled a baton or danced in a college, high school, drum corps or military marching band and want to do it again.
The band has a marching season in the spring where it participates in local parades throughout the Tampa Bay area.
This year, that season was extended when the Second Time Arounders were chosen to participate in the 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
That’s how Brenda found out about the band. Last fall, she saw on the news that the Second Time Arounders had been selected to go to the Macy’s parade. She knew right away she wanted to be a part of a marching band again.
Brenda is a majorette, a baton twirler, which she started in high school at Ft. Frye in Beverly, OH, graduating in 1969.
“The highlight of my high school years was twirling in marching band,” says Brenda. “Over the years I had thought from time to time that it was so much fun, and something I would never be able to experience again. I had no idea there were organizations out there like the Second Time Arounders. It never occurred to me. When I saw that on TV, and it got me excited about the possibility of getting to experience one of the highlights of being in high school again.”
Brenda applied and was able to join in time to participate in the parades last spring and in the Macy’s parade last month.
“It was obviously the experience of a lifetime,” says Brenda. “There are a select few bands who ever get to do that. It was really special.”
Brenda says it was a longer parade than those where the Second Time Arounders have usually performed.
While most local parades are less than two miles, the Macy’s parade was 2.5 miles. It also was more crowded, of course, and it moves more quickly.
“The parade in New York is fast,” Brenda says. “For the most part, the band members are in good (enough) shape to be able to do that. We do have more limitations than we did in high school, but the adrenaline takes over and we do it.”
The trip also featured excursions planned for the group, including an event where most of the band members enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner together at the Liberty House, an event center in Jersey City, NJ, with a view of the Manhattan skyline.
Twice In A Lifetime
While participating in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is thought to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, 2019 was actually the second time for many of the Second Time Arounders.
The band also was chosen to participate in the parade back in 2008. While that was well before Brenda had ever heard of the group, New Tampa resident Claire Keneally was already a member of the Second Time Arounders, having joined in 2007.
“It’s totally a highlight,” says Claire. “I got to do it twice in a lifetime.”
Claire was a twirler and dancer in the marching band at Gloversville High in upstate NY, graduating in 1973.
She was a Tampa Bay Rowdies cheerleader in the 1980s and danced a bit through the years, and was thrilled when she got to participate in a marching band again.
In the Second Time Arounders, she’s also a dancer, carrying red, white, and blue pom poms and doing dance moves.
Claire and Brenda both travel to St. Pete for practices, typically once or twice a week during the marching band season, as well as when they were both preparing for the Macy’s parade.
“The commute is absolutely worth it,” says Claire. “Traffic can be challenging at times, but it’s worth it, so I do it every time.”
Like Brenda, Claire says the Macy’s parade was great, but she says that one-time thrill pales in comparison to the overall experience of participating in the Second Time Arounders.
“I just wanted to be a part of the band,” says Claire. “I love it every year, even if we don’t go to Macy’s. It’s the friendship and camaraderie and exercise, but also being part of something bigger than myself. You get to relive high school, but you never age out of it. Macy’s is just the icing on the cake.”
The Second Time Arounders’ is holding a new member orientation at Ferg’s Sports Bar in St. Petersburg on Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. Appetizers and first beverage provided by the band. For more information about the marching band, visit SecondTimeArounders.org.