The Cavaliers celebrated the 60th anniversary of the founding of the corps this year with a grand celebration in the corps' hometown of Rosemont, Ill. On Aug. 3, almost 700 alumni, family, friends and fans of the Cavaliers showed up at the Donald E. Stephens Conference Center & Ballroom for "A Tribute to Donald Warren." Warren founded the corps in 1948 as the 19-year-old scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 111, and has served continuously as the corps' only president since day one. Long known to members of the Cavaliers organization as the "President and Still Founder," he is retiring from the position on Dec. 31. A portion of the cost of every ticket sold went toward allowing every 2008 member of the Cavaliers to attend the event for free. Brandt Crocker, "The Voice of DCI," served as emcee and led the audience in a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday" to celebrate Warren's Aug. 19 80th birthday.

Former Cavaliers director Jeff Fiedler (L)
chats with Cavalier alum Tom Blair and
DCI executive director Dan Acheson.
There were many VIPs in attendance, including Jeff Fiedler, Cavaliers corps director for 17 years and now CEO of the Santa Clara Vanguard organization, and longtime brass arranger Sal Ferrera, who penned several years of the corps' earlier programs, including three of the works that were performed this year by the Cavaliers Anniversary Corps. That performing group, made up of alums from all decades of the Cavaliers, took the field just a few days later entertaining at the conclusion of the Drum Corps International World Championship Semifinals in Bloomington, Ind. Speakers at the Warren tribute included Dan Acheson, executive director of Drum Corps International and recent DCI Hall of Fame inductee. Three other Hall of Fame members spoke during the ceremony, including David Kampschroer, founder of Blue Stars, George Bonfiglio, founder of 27th Lancers, and Bill Howard, longtime director of Madison Scouts. Howard delivered one of the most memorable moments of the evening when he presented to Warren a custom oil painting by former Madison Scouts member Jeff Koehn, an accomplished artist. The painting incorporated many images from various eras of the Cavaliers, including a variety of guard flags. The painting is now hanging in Warren's house.

Don Warren (L) with DCI Hall of Fame member Bill Howard.
Video vignettes were offered by a large number of famous drum corps personalities, including many from other corps. The most memorable line came from someone not so famous, Pam Cabanski, the corps' longtime office manager who has recently retired. She drew laughs from the audience when she said to Warren, "Don, good luck in your retirement ... and feel free to lose my phone number." Bradley Stevens, Mayor of Rosemont, presented Warren an Illinois House resolution of congratulations. Following, Cavalier alum Paul Milano, who is the leader of an effort to establish an endowment fund for the corps, and Chris Hartowicz, director of the Cavalier Anniversary Corps, presented a check to the corps' 2008 drum major, Kevin Gates, for the astounding amount of more than $567,000. Milano explained that the effort to endow the fund was still in its infancy. The highlight of the evening, one anticipated by all in the room, was the informal address delivered by Don Warren. Warren's speech recounted the major developments in the Cavaliers' history, often generating laughs. As the sole director of the corps for the first 25 years, he's still amazed that parents let such a young person take their kids around the country. Warren recounted how the corps literally took kids off the streets and turned them into top musicians. Most fascinating was Warren's anecdotes about the origins of the founding of Drum Corps International and its predecessor organizations, and especially the sacrifices the various corps directors made for the good of the activity. He spoke about the chance conversation with Troopers' founder Jim Jones in the stadium washroom at the corps show in Delavan, WI. The two men lamented how others were making money off the corps, but the corps themselves received very little from ticket sales. Out of this meeting, the Midwest Combine was formed with the Cavaliers and Troopers, joined by Santa Clara Vanguard, the Madison Scouts and Blue Stars.

Warren signs copies of the recently released
biographical book 'Building the Green Machine.'
The five corps offered themselves to show promoters in 1971 as a total "take it or leave it" package. Each corps agreed to not perform in any show in the Midwest without the others. This so infuriated certain people in the drum corps activity that Warren was physically escorted out of a meeting with the now-defunct Illinois Drum Corps Association. Directors of the Midwest Combine agreed to meet with directors who made up the east coast UOJC (United Organization of Junior Corps) at an American Legion meeting in 1971 in Indianapolis. At that clandestine meeting, someone asked what the new organization should be named. Someone else wrote "DCN" for "Drum Corps National" on a chalkboard, prompting the director of Canada's DeLaSalle Drum and Bugle Corps to ask, "What about us?" That led to the "N" being erased and replaced by the letter "I," and the new organization was now know as Drum Corps International. Most amazingly, each of the 13 directors in attendance at that critical meeting signed a personal financial note for Drum Corps International. Fortunately, the stands were packed at the first DCI Championship in Whitewater, Wis., and the note was never touched. Warren shared two particularly emotional acknowledgements. He graciously recognized the contributions of his wife, Jan, and his children for the success of the organization. For 60 years, they have shared him with all of drum corps. The other acknowledgement was heartfelt and challenging for Warren to get through without choking up. He remembered how the corps ended up in Rosemont due to the efforts of the late Mayor Donald E. Stevens, who passed away last year. According to Warren, had it not been for the mayor who became one of his best friends, the corps unquestionably would have ceased to exist in the early 1980s. Today, that is absolutely unimaginable, as difficult to conceive of a drum corps activity was never blessed with a Don Warren.