There was a sisterhood of female corps many years ago. CapitolAires. Les Chatelaines. The Ventures. St. Ignatius All-Girl. Audubon Bon-Bons. Now the Bandettes are the only competitive all-female corps left in the activity. Through them, the legacy of all-girl corps lives on. Yesterday, the corps from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, aged-out two of its long-time members – Erin Weigle and Jessica Lavallee, both 21-year-old mellophones with nine seasons in Bandettes. "Our show was intense. It was difficult to play – it's very dry here in Denver," said Weigle. "Our season has been interesting and my favorite. I was eleven when I started. We were young back then. But we've all grown older and more mature. The horns have been together for a number of years, so we get down to business." "It was our season best," Lavalee agreed. Instead of challenges, both ladies finding their corps' uniqueness easier. "It's the best thing! Less to worry about. Less distractions. No boys to compete over. And there's a great sense of pride,' said Weigle. "Women we encounter are proud of us. It's fun being the only one left. At one parade we marched at, a lady made a point to bring her jacket from another all-girl corps and show us." If there is a challenge, it's in staying alive. "Since all the other all-girls are gone, it became a bit of a struggle," said Weigle, "At one point we almost folded and so we began fund-raising to go on tour." While talking, a fluffy dog excitedly came up to give the newly aged-out horn player a little 'love.' "This is Peanut," Weigle explained. "It's a girl dog, of course, and she's wearing a Bandettes bandana." The tiny critter is an informal mascot for the corps, going on tour with the ladies. "She had a scare in Florida," said Weigle's dad, " and hasn't been too comfortable getting in cars." Obviously, that didn't apply to football fields, as the happy pup was sharing joy to as many members as she could. Like any corps, the Bandettes have their traditions, including the plaid skirts and the same director, Mary Wilson. There is an obvious affection for their leader. "She always calls us ladies ... even when we're not!" Weigle laughed. "We work harder for a placement than Division I corps," said Wilson. "Most of our girls have never spun or played before arriving here." In the corps wrapup after the show, they were stoic as Wilson gave them kudos for a job well done. These are not girls in the societal sense. From contras to bass drummers, the 11 to 21-year-olds, these are strong women. "It's been the best time of my life. I've learned people skills, learned patience. Drum corps has taught me everything," Weigle said, Jessica Lavallee has nine years with the Bandettes and two with their feeder corps. Her mother marched before her for six years and now teaches horn lines during the winter months. "My mom marched with her five sisters," said Lavallee. "And I've marched with a lot of cousins." This literal sense of family creates a bond and closeness that helps the members. "Most of the time when we get together, all we talk about is drum corps. We couldn't imagine marching with anyone else," said Lavallee. Through those talks, they passed on the tradition. For both ladies, aging-out is hard. It seemed especially difficult for Lavallee who tried to keep her emotions in check. Wilson understands. "Aging out is hard for all of the members. It's the final time to perform with their friends. They've enjoyed their time with the corps and will miss it tremendously. We end up being like a family because we're together so much."
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