After three weeks of hard work, Heat Wave has finally hit the road for its 2018 summer tour. As is the case for most corps, its debut was long-awaited, and has members raring to go for the season ahead.

“The vibe of the corps, they’re excited,” Heat Wave executive director Jon Otero said. “There’s excitement in the air since we’re actually getting on the road now; they’re putting the hard, grueling days away and now they’re having the fun.”

But this year — the corps’ fourth as a member of DCI’s Open Class division — that road is just a little bit longer.

When all is said done, Heat Wave will have ended up about 300 miles further from its Cape Coral, Florida home than it ever has. For the first time, the Sunshine State’s only active DCI corps will take part in World Championships Week events in Michigan City and Indianapolis in August.

“[I'm looking forward to] getting up there, seeing the kids perform, seeing the members get out there and to show what Florida drum corps is all about,” Otero said. “Four years in, I think we have a lot to offer. There’s a lot of talent in this state, and to have them be put on that national stage in Michigan City and allow them to perform at Lucas Oil at Prelims, that’s going to be a really cool experience for them.”

For veteran members like Blake Barnhill, a lead trumpet player in his second year with the corps, the extended tour has provided a wealth of added excitement. In three prior years, Heat Wave’s tours have consisted of a combined 13 performances, never having left the southeastern United States.

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Ultimately, according to Barnhill, the move to compete at the DCI World Championships is indicative of improvements throughout the corps that are on display in 2018.

“We’ve been ending our season early; I know, last year, a lot of us felt we could go on further, and we just didn’t have the opportunity,” Barnhill said. “So, now we’re really excited that we’re kind of stepping everything up with props and music and drill. We’re really raising the bar on everything to take this next step, and a lot of us are really excited about it.”

According to Otero, a trip to the World Championships was the end-game of a three-year plan that saw the corps grow in several different key logistical areas, including the recent purchase of a 48-foot equipment truck.  

“The biggest step was to make sure infrastructure was in place,” he said. “Make sure we had enough staff, volunteers, make sure that we had the partnerships in place with all of our partners that helped us to make sure we provide instruments and things like that. From a budget standpoint, it’s been a three-year process to get to where we needed to be financially.”

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Fresh off of its hometown debut, Heat Wave is set to spend the week ahead touring through Georgia and Alabama, up against returning Open Class finalists like Guardians, Louisiana Stars and Southwind. After a couple of weeks off from competition, the corps will make its way to the Midwest, with events in Iowa and Illinois before finally make its first appearance at the DCI World Championships.

And with an opportunity to perform on drum corps’ biggest stage looming in a few weeks, Otero and his corps are ready to show the world what Florida drum corps is all about.  

“We’re ready to go,” he said. “We think we have a really good product to bring to the table, something that we haven’t done yet in our four years of existence, so we’re really excited.”

See Heat Wave on the 2018 DCI Tour.