Periodically this summer, we'll be running profiles of notable drum corps shows and the dedicated people who stage them. This is the first installment. Last year marked the 25th year for the Blue Water Brass show in Port Huron, Mich. The town is located northeast of Detroit, across from Sarnia, Ontario, at the tip of Lake Huron. Bill Martin started the show, along with the local band director, Eric Payton. Prior to the show's start in 1979, he was involved with DCI in helping to establish shows in southeastern Michigan. The first show he was involved with was the 1976 DCI North Regional at the Pontiac Silverdome, prior to the show moving to Ypsilanti. Bill worked with then-DCI executive director Don Pesceone and DCI's marketing and promotions director Don Whitely for two years before founding the Blue Water Brass show. Originally, the first four years of the show was sponsored by the Blue Water Festival, then the Port Huron High School band boosters took over sponsorship and have been involved with the show since, being joined by the band boosters from Port Huron Northern High School. Remarkably, the same volunteer group had stuck together for all the first 25 years. Some made a decision to retire after last year's show; including Bill. Andy Pochydillo became chairman about the fifth year and also retired last year. The band directors from the two high schools are now co-chairs, bringing new life to the show. This is likely Bill's last year of involvement. Outside of drum corps, Bill is the official scorer for the National Hockey League in Detroit, a job he's been doing for 36 years. He states, "I love drum corps, but it's best to let the new guys get on with it, letting them run with new ideas. I'll see them get off the ground this year, and if all is fine, that will be a wrap. I'll be 71 years old in March and my wife is retiring from school teaching, so we want to enjoy life. "Just seeing the two band directors in action at the DCI seminar in Denver this past January did my heart great, seeing how they accepted everything. Succession is so important. The show would have went dead after last year if Dan Griffith, the Port Huron High School band director, and Erik Sennekmajor of Port Huron Northern High School hadn't stepped in to co-chair. In the first two early meetings with their band booster organizations, over 50 people came forward to help, and that number has since grown. "The show has turned into one of the key community events in town. What does the show mean to the town? It's a family affair. The school district is totally behind the show, providing schools for housing. "Over the first 25 years, we've contributed over $55,000 to the marching band programs from the two schools. What we gave Port Huron Northern last year was more than their actual budget from the school. "The people who've been involved with the show for years look forward to taking care of the corps when they coming into town. We've usually filled the concert side, which holds 2,500. Most years we've sold out. We're not one of the larger stadiums on the DCI tour. "There's quite a bit of emotion from being involved for 25 years and having the same people stick it out year after year after year, helping keep the area on the drum corps map. "We had bad weather only one year, when we had the top four corps from the previous DCI World Championships. People waited 90 minutes in the stands in the pouring rain to see if the show would continue, but we had to stop due to lightning. "The reason I got involved was because DCI was doing something good for kids. The program DCI has where kids become part of a team really hit me. I thought it was great to see kids perform together and see things happen. I thought it was a great thing to help kids and provide people with entertainment that was so well produced. "That vision of seeing the kids out there working hard to put smiles on people's faces is something I appreciate. I'll be retiring from the show, but I still want to see those faces smiling. DCI is one of the best avenues available today for kids to get together and work together to provide something that people can enjoy." The 26th Annual Blue Water Brass will be held Wednesday, June 23, 2004, and will feature Madison Scouts, Bluecoats, Capital Regiment, Southwind, Kiwanis Kavaliers, Pioneer and Lake Erie Regiment. The Madison Scouts will be presenting a clinic prior to the show. For more information visit the BWB Web site.
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