The ultimate drum corps road tripBy Michael BooIt seems that each of these columns reminds me of another incident in the recesses of my mind. Talking about my long-time friend Bob Abben stirred up memories of one of the wackiest things I've ever done as a drum corps spectator.During June of1981, I was staying with Bob and his wife in Tampa Bay, Fla. I had gone down there for a week to interview for a high school band director's opening. While I don't remember the details on that, the fact that I never moved to Florida tells me I didn't get the gig.However, I did get one excruciatingly memorable experience from the trip.Bob had a number of drum corps friends in the area, and l had gotten to meet some of them during my trips to the area. They were big corps fans. I thought I was a big corps fan. I enjoyed going to shows if they were nearby and then I would spring for the Drum Corps International World Championships each year.But these folks were much bigger fans than I. They wouldn't wait until the end of the season to travel. If there was a show anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line, they wanted to see it.During my stay in Florida, the Drum Corps International South Invitational was being held in Birmingham, Ala., host of the 1979 and 1980 Drum Corps International World Championships. The headliners were to be 27th Lancers, Bridgemen, Spirit of Atlanta and North Star. 27th had come off a successful season in 1980, where the corps almost upset Blue Devils at the Drum Corps International World Championships, scoring 90.25 to BD's 90.60. Bridgemen were a close third, at 90.05, and Spirit of Atlanta's 89.80 put the pride of the South just .8 away from winning the World Championship. This was the closest the top four corps have ever been to each other at the end of the season, although the 1.0 spread across the top four corps at the 1988 World Championship came close.Never mind that Birmingham was about 600 miles from Tampa Bay. One of the fans had a motor home. The group was going. Would I like to join them?I was caught up in the anticipation of seeing some really great corps, and I only had to travel SIX HUNDRED MILES to reap the pleasure. How could I not accept the offer to go to it?By now, there are countless fans reading this that are thinking, "Big deal. I've traveled 1,200 miles one-way to see one corps in a parade." And true, since then, I have met and interviewed many really serious drum corps fans who base their entire summers around traveling to see drum corps.About 200 miles into the trip, I realized that none of us was likely to get sleep before the show the next day. I also realized, when the driver pulled over and said it was my turn to drive, that I had never driven a motor home. Two hours later, I was still so fixated on keeping my eyes on the road, I hadn't noticed the gas gauge approaching empty. We pulled into a filling station on fumes, which was fine, as it was time to load up on road food.About the dietary habits of corps fans on a road trip: Anything with more nutrition than the labels off various forms of sponge cakes and chips is not allowed entry into the vehicle. I've found this to be a universal truth. For such a trip, you need access to the kind of dietary chemicals that will keep you awake and smiling, and these are only found in foods you would not feed a hamster.We pulled into Birmingham in the morning, and went straight to the school where Bridgemen were staying, as the majority of our troupe wanted to see the corps rehearse.The corps was bringing back its wildly successful "Thunder and Blazes" circus routine from 1980, but with more Bobbie Hoffman visual effects, such as the large circus tent that covered the corps as it came on the field. "In the Stone" was being introduced, as was the corps' unique take on "West Side Story."We had gotten into town in the morning, and it was truly time for breakfast. A dietary regime of junk food doesn't serve a traveling contingent well once the group steps out of the vehicle into the rays of the sun.I had just gotten to know Bridgemen drum instructor Dennis DeLucia a couple years earlier, and he invited me to join him for breakfast at a restaurant. Bidding adieu to the group, I took Dennis up on his offer. During breakfast, he asked me what Bridgemen meant to me. I answered, "Bridgemen are a state of mind," to which he nodded his head and replied, "Deep."The grammarians among you might be thinking, "He should have said 'Bridgemen is a state of mind, since the corps is being referred to as a singular entitity." And that is, why, as a writer, I've come to depend on my editors.It was a blast to watch the corps put its show together. From a distance, it appeared the corps was rather loose and unstructured. The clown prince image that had been so carefully cultivated by Bobbie Hoffman and others really seemed to take hold in the hour-to-hour activities of the corps. But you don't get this good by not taking yourself seriously, and Bridgemen, somehow, learned to take having fun seriously, while putting together an astoundingly excellent product.Somehow, the 600-mile road trip seemed to shrink in distance to a walk across the street.Every corps fan, for the love of the activity, needs to do things that aren't really justifiable from a viewpoint of logic, i.e. a road trip. The memories last a lifetime. And, it's a great way to get your three-month allotment of sugar and sodium out of the way in one weekend.What is your favorite drum corps moment or cherished memory over the past 30 years? Please share it with us for consideration in a future "Fanfare" column. (NOTE: We'll ask for funniest drum corps moments or memories in the near future.)Send your contribution to Michael Boo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put Moment/Memory in the Subject heading at the top of your e-mail.Please include your name, hometown, corps affiliation (if applicable) and years marching with or working with the corps (if applicable). No anonymous comments, please. We will credit you for your contribution.Happy memories!Sept. 13 column – Remembering the Troopers' Jim Jones" Sept. 6 column – Troopers 1979: "It still gives me chills" August 30 column – PBS Broadcasts through history Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with The Cavaliers. He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a masters degree in music theory and composition. He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors.Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating.His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes.But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.
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