A Tree Grows in Whitewater
Celebrating Arbor Day with a look back at Warhawk Stadium’s iconic evergreen backdrop
Presented to UW–Whitewater in 1976, this plaque at the
stadium commemorates DCI's very first Championship.
Whitewater, Wisconsin: Birthplace of the Drum Corps International World Championships, first held August 17-18, 1972 at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater’s Warhawk Stadium.
Despite a torrential downpour that put a damper on the conclusion of the inaugural event, the DCI Championship returned in 1973 for its second year. With a stadium situated among lush rural Wisconsin farmland as far as the eye can see, fans who returned for Drum Corps International’s sophomore series had some new scenery dotting the horizon—a grove of evergreen trees planted behind the stadium’s two-tiered back stands.
In celebration of Arbor Day, we take a look back through the DCI annals, tracing the growth of the now towering evergreen backdrop that the sweet sounds of summertime drum corps have helped to grow over 40 years and counting.
When DCI first came to Whitewater in 1972, Warhawk stadium was a relatively new facility, just under two years past its dedication date of Sept. 12, 1970. With minimal landscaping, drum corps fans attending DCI’s very first event had expansive views to the northeast of farmland and what is now the Whitewater Nature Preserve.
Madison Scouts, Aug. 18, 1972
27th Lancers, Aug. 18, 1972
By the time the DCI World Championships returned to Whitewater, Aug. 15-17, 1973, groundskeepers had planted evergreen trees behind the back stands. The cluster of trees stretched across a huge section of the east side of the stadium, and curved past the iconic Whitewater “W” emblem in the north end zone.
Madison Scouts, Aug. 16, 1973
Even after the DCI World Championships departed for Ithaca, N.Y. in 1974, Warhawk Stadium remained an important competitive stop for drum corps as the venue for the DCI Midwest Prelims and Finals and DCI's Preview of Champions. The Madison Scouts would win the inaugural regional event, growing toward their first World Championship-winning season that was only a year away.
Madison Scouts, July 27, 1974
In close proximity to the corps’ hometown and other early-summer competitions, Whitewater often served as a rehearsal facility for the Madison Scouts.
Madison Scouts, June 12, 1976
Madison Scouts, June 12, 1976
Madison Junior Scouts, 1977
Phantom Regiment, June 4, 1978
By the time DCI Midwest returned to Whitewater July 13-14, 1979, most of the trees were well above the height of a person. Going through their own competitive growth spurt, the three-year-old Spirit of Atlanta nearly pulled off an upset, winning the Prelims contest, but falling to the Phantom Regiment by more than three points in the Finals.
Spirit of Atlanta, Aug. 2, 1979
Madison Scouts, Aug. 2, 1979
Guardsmen, Aug. 1, 1980
Blue Stars, Aug. 1, 1980
DCI Hall of Fame members Don Pesceone, Don Warren, Jim Jones and George Bonfiglio, Aug. 8, 1981.
Troopers, Aug. 8, 1981
Phantom Regiment, Aug. 7, 1982
Bridgemen, Aug. 7, 1982
Whitewater’s evergreen trees frequently served as a spot for overflow spectators to take in a performance and for corps members to meet while waiting to assemble for the finale of the competition.
The Cavaliers, July 30, 1983
Suncoast Sound, July 30, 1983
Santa Clara Vanguard, Aug. 4, 1984
Velvet Knights, Aug. 4, 1984
Perkins Stadium at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater
As Drum Corps International grew into larger collegiate and pro-sports stadiums over many years, Whitewater continued to be a staple for drum corps competitions through the mid 1980s and into the 1990s. Though the stadium was frequented less during the 2000s, it’s never been a stranger. In 2011 the Madison Scouts started a new tradition, bringing drum corps back to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with their Whitewater Classic DCI Tour event.
Glassmen, July 6, 2012
Madison Scouts, July 6, 2012
Photos from the archives of Drum Corps International, Drum Corps World, Madison Scouts, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Rich Kemp, MonsterPhoto.net.