The Sarnia Legionettes
Thirty years ago, drum corps fans invaded Canada when Montreal hosted the Drum Corps International World Championships for the second year in a row, with close to 20 Canadian corps competing.
But the drum corps scene in Canada was kicking for long before that. Southern Ontario's Sarnia was its own hotbed of drum corps action, home to corps such as the Lionettes, Marching Angels, Sertomanaires, Buccaneers and Marching Diplomats.
Next week, hundreds of alumni from the Sarnia-based corps will head to the Sarnia Drum & Bugle Corps Reunion from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 23 at the Lambton College Cafeteria.
"We are expecting 400 to 500 alumni with people coming from Ontario, B.C., Michigan, and even Thailand," organizer Cheryl Upfold said. "We have received hundreds of emails expressing excitement and pleasure that this reunion is at long last happening."
Originally planned as a reunion for the Lionettes and Marching Angels with an expected attendance of about 85 to 100, the event quickly expanded to include the Sertomanaires, Buccaneers and Marching Diplomats, forcing the reunion to relocate to a large venue — Lambton College.
"Our reaction was surprise of course and delight," Upfold said about the increase in attendance. "One by one emails have come in at the Gmail address or on the Facebook page expressing pleasure, sharing memories and real joy that this reunion is finally taking place. Members are coming who were in the Lionettes in the 1940s."
The event got its start after a simple phone call from one friend to another. After tracking people down on Facebook (getting past the initial hurdle of names changed due to marriage), an initial, smaller reunion took place in August, where attendees spent six hours laughing, singing and catching up on the past 45 years.
"We all decided right then and there that we had to share this feeling and let others experience it," Upfold said, calling the get-together a "truly euphoric" experience.
The reunion will include memorabilia, photos, music and movies from all four Sarnia-based corps.
"We found old movies and reel to reel tapes and had them converted," Upfold said. "Expensive, but I know it will be worth it."
Additionally, Jack Mann, founder of the Lionettes and hailed as the "Father of Drum Corps" in Sarnia, will be honored at the reunion.
Drum corps in Sarnia, Ontario got its start back in 1945 when Mann saw the need for an all-girl musical organization. The Sarnia Lionettes formed after Mann placed an ad in a local paper.
After starting off with plastic horns, the corps would get its first complete set of new drums thanks to a donation by the Sarnia Service Club, an organization affiliated with Branch 62 Canadian Legion. The corps' affiliation with Branch 62 Canadian Legion would help give the group its first name: the Legionettes.
By 1948, the corps would be known as the Sarnia Drum & Trumpet Band. The name soon changed to the Sarnia Lionettes, after the corps became sponsored by the local Lions Club.
The Lionettes would enter their first state-wide contest — a Veterans of Foreign Wars competition in Port Huron — in 1953, emerging as Michigan Champions, making them the first out-of-state, out-of-country group to do so in V.F.W. history.
In 1961, the corps' competitive tour would take them to the national championships in Miami, Fla. While down south, the Lionettes would perform for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.
Photo courtesy of TheObserver.ca