Drum Corps International
The 27th Lancers Olympic experience

The 27th Lancers Olympic experience

by Michael Boo

Barbara (then know as "Bunny") Hopkins marched in 27th Lancers' color guard from 1976 through 1980 and participated in the corps' famed presentations at the 1980 Winter Olympics opening and closing ceremonies in Lake Placid, N.Y. Considering the current Winter Olympics are wrapping up, she thought this would be a good time to reflect on those special moments from 26 years ago. 27th Lancers' participation in the 1980 Winter Olympics came about because the man hired to coordinate the ceremony, special events coordinator Tommy Walker, happened to catch the live PBS broadcast of the 1979 DCI World finals on TV while at home in Los Angeles. We caught his attention, and since Revere, Mass., was within about a six-hour's drive of Lake Placid, he went ahead and invited us. In those days, we got together twice a week throughout the winter for regular rehearsal, so putting together a plan for the Olympics was very doable. We also had enough time to contact the out-of-state members and recruit a few alumni for the cause, including legendary drum corps and winter guard judge Mary Berkley. We flag line people had to teach the rifle line the art of flag handling, ("weapons" weren't allowed in the arena), but they picked it up quickly, pleasing our instructor Peggy Twiggs, who was just inducted into the DCI Hall of Fame back in January. We arrived at Lake Placid about a week before opening ceremonies and spent a great deal of time rehearsing both inside and outside. It's true that the bugles froze and the drumheads broke, so creative adjustments abounded. We in the color guard had more opportunities than the horn and drum lines, as we were carted all around town to display our superior flag-bearing capabilities. With the possession of 50 official Olympic flags, we were used endlessly by the town of Lake Placid, the Olympic officials and ABC Sports (the network broadcasting the games). I remember doing a number of impromptu "parades" through the center of town, including a live commercial shot behind Monday Night Football host "Dandy" Don Meredith to promote Lipton Tea, and hanging out with the ABC sports broadcasting crew in between shots. One amazing event was an ecumenical ceremony sponsored by the Olympic committee and Lake Placid clergy in the downtown skating rink. The ceremony featured us Lancer color guard members in our Lancer uniforms, each of us carrying a flag from the participating countries. I remember Tommy Walker being nervous as he hung out with us "backstage," wondering if we could pull off our part. He wanted us to keep equal distances between each other. Little did he know that we knew what a five-yard distance looked like better than he did, so off we went. Since we marched in according to height, and since I was the shortest person in the color guard, I got to lead off the procession into the rink carrying the Greek flag (always the first flag used in Olympic ceremonies). As I marched into the darkened arena and found myself surrounded by a theatrical spotlight, I got chills up my spine because the audience erupted in flash bulbs, and then -- to make it even better -- the live orchestra started playing "Crown Imperial" (completely by coincidence, we were later told). At the end of the ceremony, Tommy Walker was thrilled with our professionalism. As the opening ceremony drew closer, the color guard rehearsed at the outside venue with a group of figure skaters from Minnesota under the direction of George Zingali and a famous Hollywood choreographer by the name of George Mahoney. The entire group was to perform a number to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," but at one point an argument ensued between the two creative people, the figure skaters erupted into tears, and we Lancer girls had to break up the fight and urge the two to get on with the show! The actual opening ceremony happened on a Friday afternoon. This was the last "low-scale" Olympic ceremony. Tommy Walker was subsequently in charge of the 1984 opening ceremony at the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, which was shown on primetime TV and was about ten times larger and far more expensive. It was incredible to be backstage and watch the athletes march in. The entire drum corps performed, and then the color guard and figure skaters performed the Beethoven piece, which was captured in a photograph published later in the week in Time magazine. Then the entire color guard marched in with the 50 Olympic flags while we were broadcast all ever the world via television. We took our places next to the soon-to-be-lit Olympic flame and faced the audience for the remainder of the ceremony. One note about the large Olympic flag that gets walked in by ten people -- the one that gets hoisted up next to the flame. This year it was marching in by Susan Sarandon, Sofia Loren and a group of other notable women. The flag was originally supposed to get walked in by local Boy Scouts, but since they couldn't march "in step," our friend Tommy Walker intervened and substituted the Scouts with 11 27th Lancer horn and drum line members. Boy did that surprise the folks back home! The opening ceremony was probably the most amazing moment of my entire life, and the festivities continued for us throughout the night back at our home base in a school in Tupper Lake, N.Y. As we partied in the local tavern and cheered when the TV showed the clips from the local news, local patrons asked for autographs and supplied us with food and beverage. It was a moment I'll never forget! We headed back to Lake Placid two weeks later on a Friday night to rehearse for that Sunday night's closing ceremonies. World famous modern dance choreographer Moses Pendleton (founder of the dance company Pilobolos) worked with the entire drum corps to create a center piece for the show, but we drum corps people were not entirely cooperative. He had us gather together in a circular blob, put our arms around each other and throw our heads back to laugh in an effort to interpret the brotherhood of the Earth. Now this might work well at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, but it was a bit awkward for a bunch of 16- to 21-year-old cynical drum corps people to bear. Needless to say, our laughter was occasionally punctuated with creative phrases not appropriate for live television. Now, as amazing as this experience was, our rehearsals throughout the weekend prevented us from witnessing the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team's "Miracle on Ice." As it turned out, the U.S. team played the Soviet Union on Friday night while we were rehearsing the closing show inside the Lake Placid skating rink. I remember knowing that the game was going on, and hoping that the U.S. team could pull it off, but I didn't expect it to happen. Then one by one, people kept running in from the skating rink's office to tell us that the U.S. was tied and had a chance to win. Then the rink people went wild because the U.S. actually did win! Everyone involved in rehearsal went wild, including us, but I didn't have a chance to see the game until years later. Sunday was the day of the gold medal game, and while we color guard people were rehearsing, someone ran in and told us to run out front, and so we did. Just as we ran outside, the bus pulled up with the entire U.S. hockey team on board. They'd just won the gold medal game and had come to the rink to receive their medals! We were at the bottom of the bus stairs as they each got off the bus and they hugged and kissed us and we all went wild! So, even though we were among the few who didn't see the game, we had our own unique memories. It was an unbelievable moment. As the closing ceremonies approached, we perfected our run-through adapted to a skating rink surface, and perfected the Moses Pendleton interpretive dance piece. As the athletes gathered, they got engrossed in our run-throughs, and gave our "file" flag/rifle toss signature move a number of standing ovations. I remember asking a Finnish figure skater for his autograph (I'd seen him earlier on the TV broadcast, so I knew he spoke English), but was shocked when he asked for mine because he thought we were "Awesome!" At the closing ceremonies, I had the honor of holding the American flag in front of the crowd while the national anthem played, and I'll never forget the burst of flashbulbs and the sense of emotion that sparked from the U.S. hockey team's gold medal. The subsequent run-through was broadcast to the world and the Moses Pendleton piece went off without hidden microphones. Thank goodness, because there were creative phrases happening all over the place! We made it back to Revere by the next morning. All in all, it was an amazing experience, but nothing for which drum corps had not prepared us. We were invited to the Massachusetts State House to be honored about a week after we returned, along with the Massachusetts winter olympians, including hockey team members Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig and several others. It felt great that we were considered Olympians too! Fanfare archives Michael Boo has been involved with drum 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.