Band members march in the Sy Katz Parade in New York City

Big Red in the Big Apple: Legendary Sy Katz ’31 Parade is Back

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By Lindsay Lennon

On a drizzly evening last summer, Alice Katz Berglas ’66 was having her nightly wind-down on a bench by NYC’s East River—clad, as it happens, in a Cornell T-shirt. As the sun set and she started toward home, she recalls, a man started pointing at her from afar, “shrieking something.”

As he drew closer, she deciphered his hollering: “Do you know about the Sy Katz Parade? Do you know about the Sy Katz Parade?

Of all the Big Red alumni in the city—or, for that matter, on the planet—that stranger (who, as it turned out, had no connection to Cornell) couldn’t have run into someone who knew more about it.

Cornell fans carry red banner during Sy Katz Parade in New York City
Alice Katz Berglas ’66 and brother Bob Katz ’69 carry the banner at the 2014 parade.

Celebrated as NYC’s “shortest parade with the longest history,” the biennial Sy Katz ’31 Parade is named in honor of its founder: Katz Berglas’s father, Seymour, a devoted Cornellian and ardent supporter of the Big Red Marching Band who passed away in 1983.

First held in 1972, the parade marks its 50th anniversary this year—bringing its boisterous Cornellian spirit back to Midtown the Saturday before Thanksgiving (November 19). The much-anticipated return comes after COVID forced the parade’s first-ever cancellation in 2020.

Though its length and route have varied over the years, the parade’s signature sights and sounds endure: a sea of Big Red marching through the heart of NYC to the roar of “Give My Regards to Davy” echoing through the corridor of skyscrapers (not to mention the hum of hundreds of kazoos).

In 2008, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg even declared November 15 “Sy Katz Day” in NYC.

The event traditionally follows a Cornell vs. Columbia football game, and 2022 is no different, as the Big Red face the Lions in their home stadium at the northern tip of Manhattan.

Past grand marshals have included Cornell President Martha Pollack and former New York Governor David Paterson. (As the latter, a Columbia grad, quipped: “Today, for the first time, I rooted for my alma mater to lose—and they won.”)

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This year, the grand marshal isn’t a person, but a beloved Big Red institution: the Cornell Club, with longtime general manager Craig Lasnier and colleagues marching at the head of the procession.

Honorary grand marshal status goes to Bill Welker ’73, MBA ’75 (drum major of the first Katz Parade a half-century ago), and Brian Adelman ’09, chair of the Big Red Band Alumni Association.

Strike Up the Band: The Parade in Pictures

For Cornellians seeking a warm place to gather before taking to the streets, a pre-parade party will be held at Café 346 (the former Brooks Brothers store).

Revelers will then head outside—in a departure from previous years, they will cheer from the sidelines but won’t be marching—and the band will commence its short-but-epic commute, ending in front of the Cornell Club–New York.

“My father had a dream of a parade for the Big Red Marching Band down the streets of New York,” says Katz Berglas, who has long shared stewardship of the event with her brother, Bob Katz ’69, and Rhodes Award-winning alumni volunteer Penny Haitkin ’65.

“He was filled with pride when he would say, ‘No other Ivy has its very own parade in New York City.’”

All images by Cornell University photographers.

Published November 8, 2022


What’s your favorite Sy Katz ’31 Parade memory?

Comments

  1. David Stanard, Class of 1967

    Watching the game with Sy.

    • Alice Katz Berglas, Class of 1965

      wonderful to see your name – and your note!

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