Drum Corps Doldrums in Vermont

The upstream office in low flow.

July 23, 2022 – Waitsfield, Vermont

Here I sit along the Mill Brook, whiling away time with my thoughts and fingers. The brook is louder today because of the heavy rain last night. The water is high, but I am in the middle of my drum corps summertime drought. The month of July is the cruelest month for me because my DCI tour takes a pause while the corps migrate to Texas for the Southwest Championships where most converge after several smaller, dispersed shows across the country. The SW show in the Alamodome is the first time the top corps come together during the season. My self-adopted, drum corps brother Garry left me a voicemail at 11:50pm and rejoiced, “This is one of the best nights of my life!” He was referring to the BAC silver medal, an all-time best-ever. Garry has served on the board of Inspire Arts and Music, the parent non-profit for BAC, and supported the corps for many years. He is one of those who commit to the three T’s of non-profit board volunteerism – Time, Talent, and Treasure. He had been watching the show on the computer while I was solidly in REM on the couch. 

The Revolution Trail.

I was pooped from a long walk-about through my backwoods. I am blessed with many hiking options out my back door. It begins with a walk uphill along dirt roads, today Marble Hill Road. Most of our town roads have the word “Hill” in their names. Past old stone fences, twisting and turning through the forest, awesome mountain-bike trails built by the Mad River Riders make for great walks and runs, too. Connecting the state forest with Main Street, the Evolution and Revolution Trails descend the forest on a sinuous course to American Flatbread restaurant, a favorite local eatery at the Lareau Farm. Passing under the state highway bridge along the Mad River, the Village Path connects me to the village. But first a visit to the Lareau Swim Hole, a public park that I was involved as a planner 25 years ago.  Wending along the riparian zone separated from the highway above by the buffer of a man-made berm from material excavated from the Sugarbush snowmaking pond provides solace and an intimate connection to the riverside habitat. Happy swimmers jump from the rock and laze around the sandy-gravel banks. A brisk walk back home up Mill Brook Road completed the pedestrian tour with views of the Green Mountains that grace the westside of the Valley and the ski trails that slither along the flanks of Lincoln Peak, Mount Ellen, and General Stark Mountain. This road goes up over the Appalachian Gap, crossing the Long Trail, Vermont’s end-to-end trail that stretches along the mountain ridges between Massachusetts and Canada. One waves to everyone as there are only two main roads and everyone knows each other here in the Mad River Valley. Having worked up a good sweat, a cool dip in the Mill Brook cooled me down. The cold Heady Topper finished me off by 9:00pm.

The Mad River in Waitsfield, Vermont.

Therefore, I do not have an online subscription for DCI shows because I often fade-off while on the couch following a long day of outdoor recreation and there is no chance to watch after the live performances. Watching the Blue Devils at one o’clock in the morning in the east, it is hard fathom what I am experiencing. “Was that BD or was I in that interstitial space between consciousness and sleep?” Thanks to the pirate posters, I am afforded glimpses of the shows. However, there is only so much that YouTube, Bose and Apple can do. Live is the way I like my drum corps, either at the 50, in the cheap seats, or in the lot.

Maple trees planted by yours truly in 1999, Lareau Swim Hole Park.

I find that I am more fixated on the scores and rankings while I wait to form my own judgment from the stands at the fifty-yard line. Getting there is the greater part of the effort. If you are a fanatic like me and need to see each corps several times to fully appreciate what they bring, there is a lot of planning and logistics.

Summertime, and the living is easy.

As the chain of life’s events unfolds, you know, the unexpected things like car repairs, covid viruses, other health issues, planning a drum corps tour can be challenging. As a former road-warrior as a commercial printing salesman back in the 20thcentury, I traveled well over a million career miles in my dozens of automobiles. Of course, you can imagine the number of car repairs and maintenance that has included. Think about the cases upon cases of oil, dozens of muffler replacements, and so on. And the unexpected breakdowns. Ugh!! Alas, the Silver Bullet, my 2016 Volvo that has steadfastly carried me through three drum corps tours, has suffered an engine hiccup that requires major work. I am being told, these things happen. Ouch!! And, add to that, the mechanics are all out with Covid 19. This is dim for my prospects for my annual DCI pilgrimage to Indy by way of Allentown, Pittsburgh, and Akron. For now, I have a loaner to get around town and I have opted to fly to North Carolina for DCI’s NightBEAT this weekend. I am in the hands of a very capable dealership in Shelburne Vermont. But say a little prayer for me, please. 

Green Mountains.

Relieved not be driving the long distance to North Carolina is the silver lining in my dark cloud. I had originally planned to start my auto tour driving all the way south to Winston-Salem, and then back track to Pennsylvania to Ohio and Indiana. This would have added several more days to my tour and nights in the car, campgrounds, and hotels. It would have also added the possibility of another show along the way in Virginia. But now that plans are made, reservations are in place, I am glad to be flying into the Greensboro airport for three nights in Winston-Salem. On Friday, I will be attending the annual Crown Cares Rhythm and Reading community event where kids from the local schools come for a fun experience drumming and reading. They go home with new books, drumsticks from Vic Firth, and a fresh pair of sneakers donated by Samaritan’s Feet. This event is sponsored by Carolina Crown as part of their mission of Lifelong Excellence. It will be my third such event in the welcoming Southern community and the love of the Carolina Crown family.

Cousins at the Mill Brook headwaters, Mad River Glen.

NightBEAT is back this Sunday after a two-year hiatus. This annual Drum Corps International show is an absolute perfect tour of champions show with thirteen World Class DCI drum and bugle corps in competition, including the currently ranked top five – Blue Devils, Carolina Crown, Boston Crusaders, Bluecoats, and Santa Clara Vanguard, in that order. Truist Field, the football stadium at Wake Forest University is the perfect outdoor venue with seats high and early (close) and a commanding view of the field. I will be in my seat in Section 6 MM22, smack dab at the 50 and up mid to high. Meanwhile, I will be whiling away my days on the Mill Brook until then. 

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