International drum corps competition sees strong start

First the faint sound of brass instruments could be heard, then the rattling beat of the drums while white wooden rifles twirled high in the air and flags of every color imaginable could be seen waving in the breeze. It was the second day of Williamsport hosting its first Drum Corps Association World Championship.

Saturday brought out the best of those involved in preliminary competition for Open Class and Class A drum corps, many with a chance to be in tonight’s world finals.

“You are in for a treat,” said Bill Hoyt, of Albany, New York, who was eager to see the teams from the U.S., England and Canada at Williamsport Area High School STA Stadium.

Hoyt sported a Caballeros Drum Corps jacket.

The team was established in 1946 after World War II veterans returned home and wanted to perform in the marching corps.

“It’s fun traveling here and it’s worth it,” Hoyt said.

It was Hoyt’s sixth time at the various world championships.

“When they put on the magic suit and hear the enthusiastic crowds, it’s worth it,” Hoyt said.

Hoyt also was eager to see fellow previous Caballeros.

People of all generations were in the stands Saturday.

Each team’s show had a military and patriotic aspect to it, although some of the songs were jazzy and sometimes softer and slower for effect.

The stadium offered an additional 6,000 seats for spectators.

Hoyt took his seat among the masses who gathered beneath overcast skies.

Proud parents watched their sons and daughters on the pristine field for likely one of the biggest stages of their lives.

“My son, Gayle Hall, plays trumpet for the White Sabers Drum and Bugle Corps, of Dansville, New York,” said Bonnie Hall, an event volunteer from Williamsport.

The group is an open-class competitive all-age drum and bugle corps, she said. Several of the Sabers performers were from Williamsport.

Paul Young traveled across the country to see the three days of performances.

A former member of the Freelancers, from Sacramento, California, Young said he won’t soon forget the warm welcome downtown Friday night, taking in an exhibition on West Fourth Street.

The natural backdrop around the stadium impressed Ismael Rodriguez, of Levittown, New York, who said he traveled from Long Island to see his nephew play tuba for the Sunrisers.

Rodriguez said he also walked around downtown Williamsport and felt it to be a friendly and fun place. It was his second time at the drum and bugle corps championships, having gone to Syracuse, New York, to see it.

Seven judges, each with a specific focus — music, percussion, color guard, overall effects, visual effects and music ensemble — scored the teams based on specific factors.

The difference in the classes is in their size, with Class A teams having a maximum of 65 members while Open Class teams can max out at 128 members.

In both tournaments, teams must enter and exit the field within 17 minutes and must perform for a minimum of 10 minutes.

The crowd didn’t go hungry, either. Many food stands were cooking up a storm, including the Williamsport Area High School Millionaires Band and Parents Association, among many others.

“It smells good whatever they are cooking,” a spectator said walking along toward his seat.

Today, the championship weekend concludes with the Alumni Spectacular exhibition at 10 a.m. followed by the World Championship Finals for Open Class and Class A at 5 p.m. Both are located at the stadium.

The championships involve the top 10 of Open Class and top four of the Class A. The world championships have brought untold amounts of notoriety into the city and helped the merchants, businesses and hotels, according to Jason Fink, executive director of the Lycoming County Visitors Bureau.

The championships were two years in the making. “We are going to try and use the success of this to have other activities,” Fink said.