Karen Pagington sent in the following column. My granddaughter Ashley has marched as a member of Memphis Sound for the past two years, and this year was the corps' guard captain. In the six years that she has been in a band, we have missed only one competition. We've also attended shows during every one of her five years of winter guard. My husband is close to 69 and I am almost 65. He has worked all of his life and is now working part time so we can pay for a small 25-foot motor home. We have put off repairs to our house and don't buy some things we need as we really like to watch Ashley and see the smile on her face when her grandpa yells her name to tell her we are there. It takes two days to load the motor home with everything we need for a ten-day tour to watch the competitions. We are not poor, but have to watch what we spend. Taking our food with us helps us save enough to pay for the gas. We started watching drum corps more than 23 years ago when our son (who was in his high school marching band) asked us to take him and a friend to a competition. We attended several competitions, but when he was no longer in band, we stopped. Our granddaughter decided to quit dance after studying it for 10 years when she started high school and wanted to do guard instead. Since I also dance, this made me very unhappy. But, after going to several of her competitions, we realized how much we missed it. Every year the guard went to the Drum Corps International competition in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and we went with them. We were back to watching drum corps again. Ashley decided two years ago that she wanted to march as a member of her hometown corps, Memphis Sound. Last year we were able to go to eight of their competitions and this year we went to 11. We adopted an older dog two years ago when she was eight years old and she travels with us. Molly is a border collie mix and she loves it when the kids and staff pet her. I turned around during one competition and there was a man petting her. He was a staff member of another corps. He didn't say a word—he just knelt down, petted her and then left. The kids that come over to pet her all say the same thing, "We miss our dog."

Grandpa with Molly outside the motor home.
She loves to travel and when we take her for walks after coming home after a tour, she'll go over to the motor home and stare at it. It looks as if she's asking us when we'll be going again. Right before we leave, I fill her traveling bowl and if she could open doors, she would be in the motor home waiting on us. Molly takes medicine, so we have to go to the motor home during breaks in the contests. Sometimes we have trouble parking close enough and being in our late 60s, it is challenging for us to walk back and forth. This summer was especially fun because we were with Memphis Sound long enough for some of the members to call us Grandma and Grandpa. We always introduce ourselves as Ashley's grandma and grandpa. We were surprised that many of the people we meet do not have anyone in a corps. They say they come to the competitions because they like doing it. The volunteers that run the competitions are really helpful and nice. I am also going to add that everyone from DCI is always willing to answer our questions and help us. I especially like how the audience claps for each corps and not just the one they support. When Ashley began with winter guard, the tradition of us yelling "Go Ashley!" at the beginning of each competition was started. We did not travel with the guard and this told her that we were there. Every time her grandpa yells that, she looks up with a smile on her face. If I could give parents any advice, it would be go to your child's competitions. We always tell everyone that we are drum corps groupies. Ashley thinks I am weird because I enjoy sitting in the parking lot watching the buses come in, something I've enjoyed doing since she started participating in a winter guard. The best place to be is where the equipment trucks park. I also like watching the kids practice. I wish I had a picture of Molly sitting in the front seat, her head going back and forth watching the corps members' activities. Drum corps kids are really nice and polite, at least to us old folks. My legs stiffen when I sit too long and if I ask for help, there are always willing hands to help me up or down the stairs. I want to say that you can find something you like in every show you watch. We all have our personal choices, but I always clap for the kids. I know how hard they work, and each one deserves us to clap for them. Usually, on our way to competitions, we got calls from Ashley wanting to know where we were, as her bus traveled faster than our motor home. Ashley wants to do drum corps again next year, and we are saving our money so we can go to California. In fact, we already miss drum corps. We support her corps and pay as much as we can of her fees. Ralph even cuts my hair and we figure that's $20 more to save for the next competition. When we go to the competitions, we try to put a little bit in the corps gas can. This year we decided not to do any repairs on the house and our yard doesn't have any grass. Our neighbors agree with us that watching Ashley is more important and we can do those other things later. They also watch our house, pick up the paper and get the mail while we are gone. It is worth giving up anything we have to be able to watch her. We have learned that as we get older, it is not the money, big houses or things that are important. Some of the things we will always remember are the memories of watching her smile when she knows we are there and the happiness on her face, knowing she has someone in the audience for her. - Ashley's Grandma

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 master's 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.