1971 was the year of the Combine. The corps was grouped regionally for better competition. The Blue Stars were grouped with the Madison Scouts, Cavaliers, Santa Clara Vanguard, and the Troopers. On any given night, any one of those corps could come out on top.
The music selected for the year was off the line- "Strategic Air Command March, flag pre-"Patriotic Medly", drum solo-"Cute", concert-"Norwegian Wood", "Latina"-out of concert, and "Climb Every Mountain" for closer.
Our executive staff consisted of Dave Kampschroer and Tom "Go get em" Wrzesinski as Resident Director. The M&M design and instruction was handled by Frank Van Voorhis and Dick "Doe" Nelson. Rick Young arranged the music and instructed the bugles with some help from the notorious "Gerber Baby" John Gates. Terry Thirion arranged the drum score and taught the drumline. Ed Lau was our equipment man and truck driver. The corps was led on the field by Drum Major Bill Happel and Color Guard Sgt. Judy Young. Eugene Frank and Lee Foley helped as administrative assistants. Our active booster club was led by Bernie Bahr, and our chaperones were Pat Fillner and Marge Anderson.
Spring camp was held again in Evansville, Wisconsin, We actually had a uniformed runthrough of the show on Sunday.
The season always started on Memorial Day weekend in Kenosha. Cold, windy Kenosha. For the first part of the season the Cavaliers were our toughest competition.
In June the corps traveled to Toronto for the Shriner's International Competition. We suffered our first major defeat of the season when we finished 5th in a seven unit contest. The corps came through with trophies for best G.E. and top Color Guard.
The following weekend the corps snapped a season long jinx by one rival corps and gained some revenge from another. We finally defeated the Cavaliers at Cedarburg's Festival of Music with a score of 79.15. The Madison Scouts who dethroned the corps the night before in Kenosha as Wisconsin's VFW Champions wound up in 3rd place. In addition to winning 1st place, Blue Stars got trophies for high drums and high horns. They also won the championship flag as they did in 1970 and 1967.
Fourth of July weekend the competition was close. It was the first time we had met the western corps. The corps brought home 5th and 4th place honors, but we were only two points out of 1st place both Saturday night in Wheeling and Sunday night in Dubuque. The Cavaliers took first both nights, so this made the Blue Stars the only corps to beat the Cavaliers so far.
The fifth of July was the 4th annual Mississippi Rhapsody show in La Crosse. The Troopers, the Santa Clara Vanauard. the Madison Scouts, The Appleton Americanos and the Phantom Regiment were in competition. As host corps we didn't compete, but still performed in judged exhibition and scored 78.6 which would have put us in 3rd place.
1971 was the year we had a picnic with the Troopers who were staying at Holy Cross Seminary. This was the start of a tradition of showing Wisconsin hospitality to other corps for several years to come.
That Saturday we left for the eastern swing. Saturday night we finished 5th in Michigan City. Sunday night in Madison the Troopers won again, with the corps finishing in this order: Santa Clara Vanguard, De LaSalle Oakland, Cavaliers, Blue Stars, and Argonne Rebels. To be in Toronto for a Monday night show, we got on the bus and drove all night. From there we were scheduled to appear in the Boston area for three different contests.
At the North American Chamionships in Toronto we finished 6th. The competition was getting tougher. We scored 74.95 that night.
In the Boston area we stayed at a Jesuit retreat house for CYO, World Open, and Danny Thomas Invitational. The practice facilities were great and we saw alot of them!
At CYO in Lowell, Mass., we earned 78.65 points but finished 9th. The show was won by Blue Rock. At World Open, more than 60 corps competed for 12 places in the night show. Blue Stars again placed 9th with a score of 76.70 and the 27th Lancers took 1st place. After the show the corps boarded the buses and headed nonstop for La Crosse.
Before the nationals tour in August, the corps had some time off for R & R and the changing of parts of the drill and music. On Tuesday, Aug. 10, the corps staged a free farewell show for the local people. We left the next day for weekend shows in Kansas.
Thursday night the corps finished 3rd, only a fraction out of 2nd place in a contest in Great Bend, Kansas, with a score of 83.85.
The next night in Excelsior Springs, MO, the corps scored 85.20, less than two points behind the Vanguard.
After Kansas we moved to Texas where we were housed at Northwood Institute outside of Dallas.
Inspections were still the thing and we spent the better part of the night before prelims polishing bucks and boots, shinning up horns and drums and washing up parts of the uniforms that couldn't be dry cleaned. I mentioned our chaperones names, but not the super job they did. They were our "ma's" away from home. They were there when we needed them.
VFW Nationals were held in the Cotton Bowl that year with a final outcome of 9th place for the corps. We scored 85.25, 4.7 points off the winning total of 88.95 by the Santa Clara Vanguard.
After the show we got on the buses and drove through to Arkansas where we stayed at Hendrix College for the night. The next day we traveled on to St. Louis, MO where we stayed at a Shrine Temple. On Saturday the corps pulled into the Milwaukee area to rewrite the drill for the Wisconsin State Fair Show which was held on the race track. It was an experience watching Doc and Frank cut down th drill to fit, but this year after finishing first in prelims, high winds and stormy weather cancelled the show. A shot at a first place and $5,000 in prize money was lost. They divided the $20,000 in prize money equally among the top 10 finalists.
The final events of the year included playing a standstill performance for Booster Days at Syl's Place in Barre Mills and two last performances in Wausau and Whitewater. The papers said we were aptly judged at the State Fair Competition because we came away with two first places to end the season. We had an 85.45 in Wausau to beat Madison and in Whitewater we edged out the Cavaliers with 81.5 points.
We still had parade performances at the Apple Fest in La Crescent and La Crosse's Oktoberfest, but the 1971 season was over. We didn't place as high as we would have liked at nationals but we were still left with another year of special memories.
Author: Karen Nelson
1971 VFW Nationals-Dallas
1. Santa Clara Vanguard
3. 27th Lancers
4. Blue Rock
5. Anaheim Kingsmen
6. Argonne Rebels
7. Garfield Cadets
8. Boston Crusaders
9. Blue Stars
10. Madison Scouts
11. St. Paul Scouts
12. Black Knights
"Strategic Air Command"
"Climb Every Mountain"