How about one last “director report” before we turn this over to Drew?
Life in Winnebago has been pretty exciting for us. Let’s start with last Tuesday at the Concert in The Park event – which is really our annual debut performance. It’s held near downtown Rockford in a nice wooded park at a cozy little amphitheatre, it’s the kick-off concert for the park district’s summer concert series and we usually pack in almost 2,000 people. Some years we do the whole hour by ourselves, other years we share with a guest performer. In the past we’ve had folks like Tim Addams of the Philadelphia Symphony on stage with us, as well as Zorro the Funky Drummer (now on tour with Lenny Kravitz) and even a local bag-pipe band. This year we were thrilled to have the Boston Brass on stage with us!
Alumni and Regiment brass arranger JD Shaw is part of this amazing quintet and to share the stage with them was a blast for the corps, and I’m sure a thrill for JD too. We did a few concert tunes, then they took the stage and did a few tunes, then we ran our 2005 production “Rhapsody”. Boston Brass then came back on stage and we jammed a version of “Caravan” with them (yes, we can groove too!) and closed with “Elsa’s”. A fan left an anonymous note on the souvie truck driver’s seat saying “Thanks – best concert ever”. I’ll buy that.
After the gig we loaded 4 school buses (our charters arrive later this week) and moved 10 miles west to Winnebago High School. Rockford College is great, but a change of scenery really was needed!
We arrived in ‘Bago in great shape – the show completed and all sections in high spirits. We’re sleeping in the very large school cafeteria, which is really helping build the bond needed for a successful tour. Dorm rooms are great to start with, but it also keeps us too separate. The move comes at a good time.
The week in ‘Bago has flown by. The show gets better, more and more guard costume parts arrive, we do run-thrus and we get stronger each day. We got laundry in on one morning – and a few got haircuts at the same time. The food-truck is parked in a tree-shaded parking lot, two gyms to use for indoor needs and three great fields, including a lighted stadium. No, it’s not heaven, it’s Winnebago!
Part of spring training is not only to teach the show, but get the corps “on the same page”…learn about themselves, learn about their corps and become part of a team and something far bigger than their individual self. We do this by spending an evening telling the history of the corps through video and stories told by those who were there. This year we took over 2 hours and talked thru Regiment’s past. Jim Wren, Dan Richardson, Marty Hurley, Chuck McCurdy, John Baumgartner and other long-time folks were on hand to help me share stories and insight. It was good.
A few days later the new members received their corps jackets. It’s inspiring to see them walk up and just look at it, seeing their name on it. For a few it was clearly a moving moment in their life. Last night the members shared in what we call “orientation” where the older members welcome the new members in through a series of events. It ends with them giving each new member set of dog-tags. By the members, for the members. Pretty cool. After, we all went bowling until midnight.
Now…bowling with 140 college kids is pretty funny. A few rolled some good scores. Others rolled some good golf scores. But perhaps the funniest was our Dutch-contra player Neils, who is a competitive body-builder. Pretty strong guy. Well, his technique is to grab the ball, walk to the lane and throw it. Not roll it, but really THROW it – through the air – and to see him do so makes it look like it’s made of styrofoam! It sails half-way down the lane before landing, gains serious velocity and then wipes out the pins. Amazing. We caught it on camera, you’ll see it in this years “On the Road” DVD!
The high-light of the week was the Dress Rehearsal show Sunday evening. Always great weather, and this year was no exception. Winnebago has a small stadium and usually about 500 or so folks show up, though it seems packed anyway. We do two run-thrus in a row. No doubt the best dress rehearsal runs we’ve had since I’ve been here.
The first of our 4 guard costumes and two of the five flag designs were in for this show. The costumes are very “period” looking and the last will be VERY elaborate. Umbrellas are used tastefully at the start and though now are simply black, will look quite “1920’s art-deco” soon enough. Everyone marched but one contra player (we’re fielding 14, though one was recovering from a torn muscle. He’s back in today). Yes, “Gene Kelly” graces the stage with us. That’s John Owen, a very cool young man from Florida who dances in Disney productions. He’s a full member of the corps and we couldn’t be happier to welcome him to the family. Here’s a fun hint if you’re going to see the corps more than once this year: Try and take note of where he starts the show each night.
It was a good night and the members had a great vibe about it all. We make the whole day feel like a typical tour show day, which really helps the new members get the big picture of how this all works while still in a safe environment. Two runs, both were solid and certainly gave us a chance to see ourselves under the lights and get the jitters out as well give the designers a good “status report” event to build from. And…it was fun to see so many friends and fans show up!
The rest of this week is full rehearsal days. Yesterday we handed out the tour itinerary, talked through that and then opened up the souvie truck for members and staff (discount time!) and tonight we’ll do one last Walmart run. The buses roll in Thursday evening and at 2:30 pm this Friday wheels will roll and 5 buses, 2 semis, 1 souvenir rig and my Bravada will hit the road; coast-to-coast for the 3rd consecutive summer.
I’ll leave it to Drew tell you all about it.
Humbly yours, Pat