In early December of 1975, a school bus of about twenty or so prospective members left Sheboygan for what turned out to be one of many journeys to the mystical land of La Crosse, Wisconsin. That first trip was full of expectations and excitement, neither of which turned out to be disappointing. Throughout the winter months of '75 and '76 each trip for those that dared to venture on into the warped reality of drum Corps. Little did we realize, at the time, that there was no turning back and no escape from what lay ahead.
Looking back still brings a thought of amazement to one's mind. How did the Blue Stars turn a busload of high minded, idealistic, reality lacking, and for the most part, ignorant band people into a top notch drum and bugle corps? It wasn't easy. What the Blue Stars achieved in 1976 was just short of a miracle. Through hard work, determination (and a little beer) we climbed from a has been in June to one of drum corps elite in August.
During the off season between the summers of '75 and '76 the management came up with a scheme to field a full corps early in the season rather than in August. This scheme consisted of half a corps of veterans and local La Crosse people and the other half of people from the Sheboygan area. It only took until the beginning of June for the staff to figure out that this idea looked a lot better on paper than it did on the field. We started the season with two marching styles, two playing styles and fortunately only one Jupiter. This effect earned us a score of 58.00 at our first show and also afforded us the luxury of being whipped by the Marquis for the whole month of June.
Well, changes were definitely in line. To the rescue of the Sheboygan side came Schultz, Pierre, Taz and a few S.B.'s (Massey and James) as marchers, and Albo, Dougie and Wolfie as illustrious members of the staff. By the end of June things started to look a little better, but not much. Not until a week or so before we left on the nationals tour did we start to see daylight. Mention must be made of the fact that not until camp before this tour did the corps practice with both sides together during the week. Once the corps was pulled together for nine straight days of twelvehour-aday rehearsals did things change from frustrating, boring, dirty, and confused to exhilarating, exciting, organized and clean. By the end of the camp the show was finally there and the attitude of the corps was dynamite.
All of the hard work payed off as tour began in Louisville, Kentucky. We scored a 76.00 and finally beat someone. Throughout the southern swing of the tour, which included shows in Sevierville, Tennessee; Atlanta, Georgia, Gadsden, Alabama; and Little Rock, Arkansas, we were devasting, staying two to three points ahead of the Royal Crusaders in every contest. Our first real test came in Alton, Illinois when we faced the Oakland Crusaders from Etobicoke Ontario and the Phantom Regiment from Rockford, lliinois.The unexpected happened that night when we beat the Canadians by a point with an 81 and only lost to the Regiment by 3. From that point our spirits were lifted even higher when Moe threatened an Armory full of dogs, and oh yeah, we beat the Marquis by 10 points. By this time things were going so well that we decided to take a three day vacation to Washington, D.C. So much has never been seen by so many in such a little time as was seen by the Blue Stars during those three days. To end the vacation we partied whilefloating down the Potomac on a floating discotheque until midnight. Then we proceeded to load the buses and drive all night to New York for VFW prelims at 8:00 the next morning.
Needless to say our performance was par for the course and we were rewarded with a rousing 8 point drop from our previous score of 84. We did gain a little dignity in the finals by raising our score to a 79, but not much. So much for heartaches, it was time to head for Philadelphia and the DCI Championships. We practiced our butts off during the next four days and againhardwork really paid off. In prelims we were able to put on a hyped performance and raised our score back to an 84, which we had achieved a little over a week earlier. This was good enough to place us in 9th place and fired us up to put on our best show of the year in finals. While our show was great and the crowd went wild, our score dropped to an 80.35. This was still goodenough to keep us in ninth.
1976 had a lot of ups and down for the Blue Stars, but in the end the meaning of "Finis Coronat Opus" really hit home. The end definitely crowned the work.
Author: Ed Schmitt
1976 DCI Finals-Philadelphia
1. Blue Devils
2. Madison Scouts
3. Santa Clara Vanguard
4. Phantom Regiment
5. 27th Lancers
8. Oakland Crusaders
9. Blue Stars
10. Seneca Optimists
11. Capital Freelancers
"Theme from Jaws"
"O' Bless the Lord"