By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — From the sandy-white beaches of Miami to the shores of Lake Erie, the Keystoners Drum and Bugle Corps brought joy to drum corps fans of all ages for nearly a quarter century.
Their legacy lives on Saturday night with the 10th edition of the Cavalcade of Champions beginning at 7 p.m. at the Christy Mathewson Memorial Stadium, Bucknell University. The competition, which features some of the top Drum Corps Associates (DCA) drum and bugle corps, is returning after a one-year absence due to stadium renovations.
“We’re looking forward to being back on the DCA schedule and ticket sales have been going great,” said Graham Showalter, president of the Union County Veterans 4th of July Committee.
This year’s competition features the Bushwackers Drum & Bugle Corps, Princeton, N.J.; the Empire Statesmen, Rochester, N.Y.; Hawthorne Caballeros, Hawthorne, N.J.; Sunrisers Drum and Bugle Corps, Brentwood, Long Island, N.Y. and the Windsor Regiment, West Windsor, N.J.
The corps are not listed in the order of appearance.
Three drum corps, the Hawthorne Caballeros Alumni Drum and Bugle Corps, Hawthorne, N.J.; Preston Scout House Alumni Band, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada and the Saints Brigade Drum and Bugle Corps, Port Chester, N.Y., will perform in exhibition.
Preston Scout is celebrating their 75th anniversary this year.
Due to the sequestration, the Commandant’s Own, the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, will not be appearing this year.
The Keystoners were formed at the Wallace W. Fetzer Milton American Legion Post 71 in 1946 as the Milton American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps. They became the Keystoners in 1949.
The corps won the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Championship in 1957 in Miami.
They won three Pennsylvania state championships, one under the American Legion Banner and two under the VFW banner.
“We didn’t have a style of our own when it came to music,” said George Bolig, former horn-line member and corps president. “We played a lot of standards and one of our more well-known tunes was “The Robert E. Lee” in the ’50s and “Fly Me to the Moon” in the ’60s.”
Bolig, who was 18 at the time of joining the corps as a baritone player, served nine years as the corps president and was in the activity for 20 years. Today he is the president of the Alumni Association.
Montandon resident Frank Pursell was introduced to the activity by a friend and worked his way up from cymbal player to being the corps drum major.
“Being involved in drum corps taught me about being able to lead and to relate to different kinds of people,” Pursell said.
Pursell is the secretary-treasurer of the Alumni Association.
In the past, the corps were not only judged on military-style maneuvers shows, but also on being clean cut and shaven.
“We had inspections before we went on to perform on the starting line,” Bolig said. “They would give you a tick (a tenth of a point deduction from the corps’ overall score) for any mistake you made.”
The Keystoners ran the Cavalcade back in the day and used the money from the shows to purchase uniforms and horns.
The corps, which started marching competitively in 1952, last marched in a competition in 1970.
“When we won the state title in 1953 we only had 21 horns then,” Bolig said. “We had some big horn lines in the ’60s.”
Over the years, the drum corps activity has had its fair share of controversy and members within each corps sometimes don’t see eye-to-eye. Yet, through all of the political and philosophical differences, the activity still proudly marches on.