One of the keys to a corps' success is a committed and supportive fan base. Approximately 300 parents, friends and alumni of the Blue Stars showed that support June 11 in Indianapolis as corps members made their "Grand Premiere" before leaving to begin their summer tour.

At the Indiana State Fairgrounds, the corps hosted a silent auction fundraiser and musical performance of its 2009 show, "The Factory." Even the weather seemed to be a Blue Stars fan Thursday, as persistent rain cleared up just as the show began and held off until the performance was done.

Blue Stars members have been immersed in spring training rehearsals since the end of May. "It just felt great to finally have an applauding crowd," said Tom Palmer, a 21-year-old Blue Stars front ensemble member. "It was our first time being in uniform, which we were really hyped about, and we could really carry ourselves with pride through our first performance."

Corps and audience members were similarly excited about the 2009 show, which depicts life in an American sewing factory during the 1940s in the midst of WWII.

The production will utilize 36 prop sewing machine stations on the field and will take advantage of the new Drum Corps International rule implemented for the 2009 season that will allow the use of electronic instruments. Among the sound effects audience members will hear are steam, an air raid siren and the actual radio announcement that played when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941.

"One of our goals this year is to take the audience on a journey," said Frank Sullivan, Blue Stars brass arranger and composer. "I've been listening to the music since November and I'm not close to being sick of it yet."

Alumni Katie Powers and Laura Janik, who marched as members of the Blue Stars brass section in 2008, said the evening performance was "amazing" and that they thought the electronic sounds enhanced the show.

"We're so jealous of the show—it's so well written and beautiful, so much louder too, and so emotional," they said.

Corps members left Thursday night, heading to Normal, Ill. to perform as part of the opening ceremony of the Illinois Special Olympic Summer Games. They'll also stop in their hometown of La Crosse, Wis. before making their way to their first DCI competition of the season in Rockford, Ill. Palmer said he was "counting down the hours" until the busses left.

Parents in the crowd were excited to see their children one last time before they headed off on a whirlwind tour of more than 30 cities and 20 states that will bring them back to Indianapolis this August for the DCI World Championships. While some said they were sad to see their children leave, they knew what a great experience the young performers would have this summer.

"I think they're ready to go, I think they're ready to start performing their show in front of an audience," said Deborah Jones, the mother of a Blue Stars mellophone player. "I'm excited for the season."

For Debi Nettler, the send-off was routine; this is her 10th year with a child marching as a member of a corps and her daughter's fourth year in the Blue Stars color guard section.

Corps director Howard Weinstein reassured parents with a little humor, saying, "I promise they'll come back in one piece—a little tanner, a little thinner, but in one piece and happy!"

View a photo gallery from this event.

View the complete 2009 Blue Stars tour schedule.

With assistance from Justin Herberger, Craig Olear.