The heat is on -- and I'm just not talking about the weather outside. After an intense heat wave, during what the drum corps world affectionately calls the "swamp tour," there are less than two weeks before finals.
The swamp tour begins in Pascagoula, through Baton Rouge, and at the end you hopefully get the reward of performing in Murfreesboro. The heat and humidity alone without a heat wave is rough. With extra added heat and humidity, it becomes almost unbearable for those who are not marching. My rookie year, 2000, was the summer of rain and more rain. In 2002, it was the summer of heat. We did the swamp tour that year and at a 7 a.m. breakfast we would begin to sweat and roast under the Southern sun. Last summer, we had a four-hour sectional block during Baton Rouge. I think we were promised a nice break if we pushed ourselves through the heat and humidity. After three and a half hours, my caption head let us take a water break and dismissed us to ensemble. Thankfully, by the time the kids get to the swamp tour, their bodies are already conditioned to heat, long practice blocks, and they have the willpower to push through anything. Finals are in Boston this year, and that should be a nice cool treat to the end of the season. When 2002 finals were in Madison, we all woke up went outside and immediately turned back around to go put long sleeve T-shirts and sweatpants on. It was 60 degrees at wakeup! I expect Boston to be similar, not as cold, but a break after the heat. Boston will not only be a treat to the members but to the audience as well. When the top six corps are holding on to about a two-point spread, anything can happen. I've been trying to keep up with scores on DCI.org and for the first time I started reading reviews on different drum corps forums to see what fans and seasoned viewers had to say. It seems like everyone is indecisive. Despite some regular placements, finals are always a time of surprise and final judgment. When I marched with the Reading Buccaneers in 1999, a senior corps out of Pennsylvania, we were at a show site the weekend of finals (the senior corps season ends on Labor Day.) Our drum major woke us up announcing there was a tie at finals. I thought I was dreaming. I never thought that there would be dual champions at DCI finals. I couldn't remember it happening before, and never thought it would happen again. Of course, as history told us, I was wrong, but no one can predict what will happen. Standing on the field last summer for finals was unbearable. The Madison Scouts, Bluecoats, Carolina Crown and Boston Crusaders had been battling for placement with each other at every show. The color guard tries to remain as still as possible during retreat and all wanted to hear was the scores. If you have never been on the field, retreat seems like 10 hours long. The announcer seems to say each number in slow motion and then repeats the score in slow motion again. I had no idea where the chips would fall, as the saying goes, and began to get extremely nervous when they started announcing ninth place. Finally, when the Bluecoats score was announced, it was like we'd won. I'm not sure what happened at the back of the block but at the front my assistant color guard captain turned around signaling for us to salute the audience and was in tears. DCI tried to rush everyone off the field in 15 minutes after the final score was announced. I think the Bluecoats were some of the slowest in dismissal. Once we gathered up, formed a single line, and began to walk as one unit, everyone was finally at peace with the summer. Despite the rain, tears, pain, and most of all the heat, everyone will return from retreat as a single unit knowing that the best was just accomplished on the finals field in Boston. Becky Novac currently lives in Hoboken, N.J., and works for Universal McCann in New York City as an assistant media planner. She is 22 years old and a recent graduate from Penn State University where she majored in journalism and psychology. Becky marched with the Bluecoats in 2000, 2002 and 2004 as a member of the color guard. Past columns by Becky Novac: The Heat is on The First free summer A National audience Watching warm-up The Revolving door Dear mom and dad Technology on tour It's been a year How to save time Thanks for calling Passing it on Unforgettable The Biggest group project My Aria interview Life outside the bubble A day filled with intangible rewards Traditions make drum corps complete The Art in what we do Hockey, alumni and Valentine's Day Dates Everyone needs goals Adapting Turning pro Wondering about the "kids" Resolutions It's the little things A Rock star Remembering the passion Banquet weekend Missing out Unknown suitcase adventures The Even years