What it seems we have here is a seriously motivated membership comprised of talented new members and a lot of veterans, a staff that has been working intensely all winter, and a support staff, management and Board that is churning along like a well-oiled machine. What it seems we have here is Phantom Regiment firing on all cylinders. But enough of the mechanical euphemisms. We had a great camp, and here’s what went down:

The brass and battery met at Beloit Memorial High School this weekend to learn drill. Memorial is a great venue for us, as the full-sized field house allows us to line an “almost-full” field and march and play regardless of the weather.
Our last time at Beloit was audition weekend, in which just over 450 auditionees packed the place. This huge school felt pretty big this weekend with only the 70 brass and 20 battery in the house! But hey, no lines at the showers is good.

We did once again have excellent attendance, with 70 brass in by 10 pm Friday, and all but 2 battery in (though a third of those guys got stuck on a delayed flight and didn’t get in until 8 am Saturday. Thanks Mr. and Mrs. Leide for rescuing them from O’Hare in the middle of the night!). Brass caption head Kevin Rabon and drum guru Paul Rennick were both in to keep the music program on track.

Our goal was to learn, march and PLAY 36 sets of the opening tune, and we did just that.

We’ve put considerable effort into our visual design this season. Last summer we made great progess in our visual program: 4th in GE Visual at finals, top 5 in all other visual categories and more importantly, a package that complemented, supported and enriched the music offering … but we won’t rest there. Dan Farrell, Tony Hall, Johnny Sanchez, Joe Heininger and the rest of the visual team have burned up some hardcore phone time, held more than a few video conferences and used those frequent flier miles to ensure we provide the best visual support we can to this powerful musical program. The effort showed its fruits this weekend.

Prior camps put a strong emphasis on technique, and this camp we brought in nearly the entire visual staff to get the drill on the floor. Along with Johnny Sanchez and Bob Smith, the team of Chad Dempsey, Brian Hildreth, Eric Sabach, Joe Lemire, Will Richards and Scott Tanner made sure no section went unnoticed. Saturday started with stretch and technique, then out came the charts. By Sunday, we marched and played the entire 36 pages (just over two-thirds of the opening tune) – for 2 hours! Even got into some detailed defining and refining. We really wanted to get outdoors and line a field, but though Saturday saw temps in mid-60s, it alternated between wind, rain and sun, making it just too unpredictable. C’est la vie.

The drill? It’s good stuff. Three years of building a stable and a focused visual team is paying off, of that I am certain. I couldn’t be more proud of these folks’ efforts. I’m no visual guy – I barely read a map – but I think there is some pretty cool stuff out there already. Oh, yeah, and the guard ladies will be quite easy to notice in this piece, let me tell you!

A lot else was accomplished at this camp as well … Bill Riebock, JB, Troy and Chuck spent a hard afternoon working inside the new equipment truck. Barb Glasscoe, Mary, Julie, Ann and Marilyn continued to fit and tailor the uniforms, Becky Nelson, Mr. and Mrs. Bowers, Mr. Garbacik and George put on some great breakfasts and fun snacks, Bob Joosten made sure bus shuttles were met on time, and I got to meet with each support staff department and talk through the summer tour and staffing status.

Pirate (alumni Joe Hamlin) and I even got to witness the Miss Beloit pageant, held Saturday evening in the theater at the school. You heard that right: Miss Beloit. I’ll let Pirate give that review.

We didn’t sell souvies at this camp, but it was nice to see Barb, Mouse, Peg, Jackie, Phil, Ron and Kurt on Sunday. Better phans could not be found! A whole bunch of other parents and fans stopped by, which is what makes camps so fun. Oh yeah, Glen Brough, Ricky Fritzsching and Bill Petersen … thanks for the soda pop and laughs! Mindy and Greg made sure the members were checked in, and members of the Board came in Sunday for a meeting as well.

We’ll be back at Beloit in late April, adding in the guard, test-driving some guard costume and flag ideas, learning more drill and moving this all closer to tour. May camp will be at Winnebago, (stadium with lights) and weather permitting, we’ll be under the lights marching and playing a healthy segment of the show … before June!

In closing, I want to publicly compliment the members. This is one of the most enjoyable groups of young people I have had the pleasure of serving. I apologize if all this sounds like a bit of “hype” or over the top, but this group has really made things sparkle already this seaon. The best part of my day is hanging in the gym before lights out, cutting up and yakking away with the kids. It’s a pretty cool bunch this year. I think the true success of this season will be the heart and passion this year’s members show, and I believe I see a lot of promise in that department. Thanks, Regiment. And until next time … Pat