December 2006 Issue
Jump for Joy
The opening chords of "Jump" jolt out of the speakers and suddenly 26 preteen girls take the command literally. In a flash, they're all flying feet and zipping ropes, sparking excitement as the Firecrackers precision jump rope team.
Firecracker energy explodes at Kings Local Schools in Kings Mills, northeast of Cincinnati. Quick- stepping girls in fourth through eighth grades compete to join the elite performance squad, which has jumped at basketball games from Notre Dame to the University of Kentucky. They've performed at New York Knicks games and on "The Late Show with David Letterman." The Firecrackers, in their signature red, white and blue uniforms, even did their routines for President and Mrs. Bush at the 2004 inaugural.
The Firecrackers lit up the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, jumping the entire 2-1/2-mile route and showing off their trickiest routine to "Hey Baby" during a one-minute finale at Herald Square. It's the group's third Macy's parade invitation, following star turns in 2001 and 2003.
"The Macy's experience is unmatchable," says Lynn Kelley, a physical education teacher who founded the Firecrackers in 1996. "There are 2-1/2 million people along the parade route."
In addition to faultless performance, the coach insists on good grades, good citizenship and good manners. "Many kids look down at their shoes when adults talk to them, but our girls learn to look everyone in the eye and thank them for coming out," Kelley says.
Ninety-nine percent of Firecrackers stay with the squad all five years, learning skills that have taken jump roping into the Junior Olympics. The team members make "unbelievably deep friendships," Kelley says.