After all the close contests, we're finally getting off the ground in Denver with the Drum Corps International World Championships. It seems there are many tight races in all classes to focus on, and perhaps it won't be until the Division II & III Grand Finals and the Division I World Championship Finals that we'll have answers we can take to the bank. Denver, longtime host to the prestigious Drums Across the Rockies Championship, last hosted the DCI World Championships in 1977 and 1978, before any of today's marchers were even born.

INVESCO Field at Mile High
Mile High Stadium held many fond memories for this writer -- first for being the home of his last DCI contest as a marcher and for being the site of his first DCI World Championship as a fan. If you attend the big shows in Denver, look just to the northwest of INVESCO Field at Mile High. You'll see an embankment on the west side of the north parking lot. This was the embankment on which the west lower deck stands of Mile High Stadium were built. This was the lower deck towards which all the corps played. If you were at either the DCI World Championships or Drums Along the Rockies, it might be a difficult to avoid the temptation to climb this not-so-tall hill and sit on it, looking out to the parking lot and imagining the Blue Devils capturing their second DCI World title in 197,7 or the Santa Clara Vanguard's shocking win in 1978 after being fourth at the DCI Midwest Championship a couple weeks earlier. 1977 was the year the Crossmen first made DCI World finals and Phantom Regiment came close with its first use of the "New World Symphony." The Santa Clara Vanguard shocked fans by ending their show quietly (a novel approach at the time), and the Garfield Cadets taught all their guard members to play horns for their closer of "I Don't Know How to Love Him," further rocking the boat with the controversial vocal "Amen" at the end of the show (long before vocalizations were legal). And who can forget the Bridgemen's drum major putting on clown makeup in the front of the field? 1978 saw Phantom Regiment fall just one-tenth short of winning their first World Championship, and witnessed the rapid ascent of the Spirit of Atlanta into a top-six placement in only the corps' second year on the field, with the introduction of the corps' trademark "Let It Be Me" that prompted an unprecedented minute-long standing ovation during the last minute of the closer. The Cavaliers weren't in finals, the last time that has ever happened. The Blue Devils, despite being in third place, were only .35 from winning a third-straight Championship. If you were a marcher who performed in Mile High Stadium, stand on the parking lot facing the embankment mentioned above and see if you can imagine the sight of the thousands of screaming fans how many years ago. Mile High Stadium and INVESCO Field at Mile High almost touched before Mile High was torn down. Only 40 feet separated the two behemoths. Mile High made way for improved facilities, great sightlines, better parking, indoor bathrooms, skybox suites and better audio, video and Internet connections for the media. Still, one who had great times at Mile High could be forgiven for experiencing some melancholy when glancing towards the former site of the once-proud stadium. Glancing a little further, one is struck by the seeming proximity of the Rocky Mountains, rising proudly to the west and jutting skyward as if the inside of the Earth has been turned inside-out. A day trip into these magnificent edifices to the planet's development is strongly encouraged, especially a ride through the incomparable Rocky Mountain National Park northwest of the city. Also encouraged is a walk through Denver's downtown district, and especially the shopping district known as 16th Street Mall. It runs right into the DCI Headquarters hotel, the Adam's Mark, where the Individual and Ensemble contest will be held on Wednesday. This unique dining, shopping and entertainment district is a mile long and has something for everyone. Consider eating at one of the outdoor cafes. You'll also find 15 movie screens and just about every glamour shop found in the ritziest shopping districts of America. A must see, even if you don't go inside, is the stunning Denver Art Museum, a building with 28 sides covered with over a million glass tiles that trace the passing of the sun. The Native American art collection inside is unrivalled anywhere. Want a break from drum corps? The Denver Performing Arts Complex (known to locals as The PLEX) is the largest performing arts complex in the world under one roof, with nine theaters seating more than 10,000 people. It's just a couple blocks off the 16th Street Mall. Go inside the Brown Palace Hotel nearby and gawk at the stained-glass ceiling/roof, or drop by the famous Children's Museum, or drive to the Denver Zoo, regarded as the fourth-most popular zoo in the nation, near the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the fourth-largest such museum in the nation. For nightlife, well, you should be in the stadium. But if you have a free night, or a free Saturday afternoon, consider Lodo (Lower Downtown). This is the largest concentration in the nation of restored buildings from around 1900, with over 90 places to try the local brews and to eat. Denver brews more beer than any other city, and many of the city's brewpubs are downtown, selling many of the over 80 beers brewed in Denver. There is so much more to mention, but it's especially advisable to stop in a major hotel or other attraction and pick up a copy of the 2004 Official Visitors Guide: The Mile High City of Denver, put out by the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. You will not run out of things to do in your free time. Of course, we hope your free time is limited because you're going to so many Drum Corps International events. And for those of you who just want to live and breathe drum corps; Denver will be heavenly for you. Check for the latest news, or stop by the DCI Headquarters in the Adam's Mark Hotel to get the latest schedules of events. If you've got nothing to do during your stay in Denver, you must be asleep.