Skipsational trip planned to NYC for Thanksgiving Day Parade

There’s an old joke that asks, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” 

“Practice!” is the answer. 

So, how will five ambitious athletes arrive to New York City’s Herald Square? Practice jump roping! While many dream of ringing in the holidays in New York City – perhaps ambling down the festooned avenues – there will be little time for shopping or sightseeing for five members of Chapel Hill’s SkipSations Jump Rope Team who will participate in the 87th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, Nov. 28. 

SkipSations jumpers Chloe Grill, Julia Sonis, Cinthia Praiswater, Megan Miller and Sarah Seagroves will join 200 fellow athletes in front of a huge spectator crowd and national television audience as they jump rope the 2.5-mile parade route through the city, a SkipSations release said.

Additionally, two of the five members of the Chapel Hill contingent – Praiswater and Miller – will grace the main performance stage at the end of the parade route at Herald Square. 

Athletes were invited from jump rope teams across the country to join the ensemble, including many champions. Local athletes have been practicing for months under the direction of SkipSations coach Lucy Schimmelfing. 

“Our coach chose people who have been jumping longer and also those who have done (group routines),” said Praiswater, 18, a Cedar Ridge High School senior. “The group routine is a really big part of what we’re doing.” 

According to its website (, the SkipSations Jump Rope Team of 28 boys and girls aged 6-18 (and select parents) has been performing, competing teaching jump rope workshops since 1999.

Organizing the initiative is the Heartbeats Jump Rope Team in Cleveland. The current initiative has adopted the moniker J.U.M.P. (Jumpers United for Macy’s Parade) 

“They’re all going to be jump ropers who we’ve seen at other competitions,” said Julia Sonis, a Chapel Hill High freshman who’s been jumping since age 8. “I’m familiar with all of them.”

J.U.M.P. athletes will march alongside the giant character balloons, celebrities, floats, marching bands performance groups that comprise the iconic Macy’s Parade, which began in 1924. 

While the parade itself is expected to involve around 10,000 participants, the on-site and television audience should top 3.5 million. 

“I’m really nervous just to have so many people watching us,” said Chloe Grill, another Chapel Hill freshman who has been jumping for six years. 

“Yeah, it’s in front of a lot of people,” Chapel Hill ninth-grader Megan Miller, 14, said, “and I’ve never really done anything like this before.” 

“We’ve been to big competitions – as far away as Iowa – but not big demonstrations,” Sonis said.

While the five jumpers have often jumped the length of local 5Ks, the parade will pose new challenges. The jump ropers will be on display for the entire length of the 2.5-mile parade route the time spent jump roping will likely be nearly two hours.

Perhaps the greatest pressure is to jump in unison and not to stand out in the crowd.

“You’re all supposed to do exactly the same thing: 200 jumpers,” Grill said. 

Further, New York in November is known for brisk temperatures and stiff winds. 

“We’re preparing for that,” Praiswater said. “We’ll have Under Armour shirts we’re planning on getting gloves.” 

“I think it’ll be fine once we start jumping,” Sonis said.

“I’m nervous that we’re going to get all bundled up then when we start jump roping we’ll get hot, though.” 

While the first few days may give passing glimpse of the “City that Never Sleeps,” the SkipSations will be concentrating on the parade. 

“For the first couple days, it’ll be all business,” Grill said, “but after the parade, we’ll get to go sightseeing. My family will be going all around the city.” 

Arriving at Herald Square, 72 of the athletes – including Praiswater and Miller – will be featured in a live, one-minute broadcast on NBC, featuring a striking, intricately choreographed routine. 

“We went up to Ohio to work on that it’s a little bit harder,” Praiswater said. 

“There are different formations we have shirts with one color on front and another on back: it looks really cool.”

NBC will broadcast the event on WNCN (NBC 17) locally, with coverage beginning at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. 

Next up for the SkipSations will likely be next year’s competition circuit. 

“That’s always really exciting because we get to travel,” Praiswater said. “This group hasn’t gone too far, but I know there’ve been other groups that have gone to competitions in Australia. This coming year, a few of us may even be going to Hong Kong in a couple of year, we may be going to Australia again.”

PressSharon Reaves