World class marchers strut their stuff in Greencastle

Alex Howley, 18, McKinney, Texas, and Jordan Crimminger, 17, Fort Mill, South Carolina, play the marimba for the Boston Crusaders.

The Boston Crusaders Drum & Bugle Corps will swing through Greencastle again on Tuesday, July 29. This time they will meet with the Greencastle-Antrim High School marching band and color guard, and put on a performance for the public.

The Crusaders stayed overnight at the high school prior to competing in Drum Corps International competition in Chambersburg on June 27. Their return is because Greencastle is again along the path of their summer tour.

The traveling group will arrive in town at about 4 a.m. and sleep in the high school auditorium. They will spend the afternoon rehearsing their own routines, then use the evening to meet with G-AHS musicians in small groups.

The community is invited to a performance of the Boston Crusaders at 9:30 p.m. on Kaley Field. It is free.

The Internet played a key role in providing a rare opportunity for Greencastle-Antrim High School students. The Boston Crusaders Drum & Bugle Corps passed through town, and used Kaley Field to practice for a Drums Corps International (DCI) competition in Chambersburg on June 27. Members of the G-AHS marching band and color guard were able to watch the elevated level of skill during rehearsals. Many also viewed the two performances at Trojan Stadium.

“This was a good opportunity for our students to see what they can strive to do,” said Jay Wetzel, G-AHS guard instructor. “It lights the spark.” 

The 150 member team faced DCI finalists The Cadets from Allentown, Bluecoats from Canton, Ohio, and Spirit of Atlanta. The judges rated them on traditional standards and then on design, with running commentary by a staffer and feedback from the fans via social media.

“We are a world class division drum corps,” said Lamar Branson, color guard caption head and director of marketing. “The Boston Crusaders have been around for 74 years.”

The participants range in age from 15 to 21, and are admitted through an audition process to perform as a brass player, percussionist or color guard member. They come from all over the United States.


G-AHS assistant principal Christine Reiber was the liaison for the Crusaders. They asked for housing at the school and she jumped at the chance. She felt the kids needed a boost after the deaths of longtime band director Samuel Forney and math teacher Kathe Whipp during the school year.

“We are so lucky,” she said. “I asked the group how they found us. They said Google maps.”

The three buses and two equipment trucks arrived well after midnight. Reiber was present to open the doors and usher the corps into the auditorium. They spread out their air mattresses and hunkered down for the rest of the night.

“I felt like a kid at Christmas,” Reiber said enthusiastically. “Everything went like clockwork.”

The weary travelers appreciated the accomodations.

“The auditorium was nice because the gym was not air conditioned,” said Casey Dunham, 19, Frisco, Texas.

“Anything is better than the bus,” said Kate Fletcher, 20, Greenwood, Ind. That was where they sometimes did sleep.

A food van arrived Friday morning to feed the masses, and take care of the rest of their meals that day. The Crusaders practiced on the field for four hours. Spectators watched from the bleachers, with the players in skimpy clothes due to the extreme heat.

Kieran Maher, 17, a G-AHS senior in the color guard, observed the polished moves.

“They are awesome. They’re DCI. What can I say?”

Her analysis was based on another perspective, as she was a second year member of a similar component, the Buccaneers Reading Drum & Bugle Corps. That group was under Drum Corps Associates. DCA had no age limit, so members ranged from 15 to 54. Her unit was world champion in their division.

A musical summer

The Boston Crusaders trained in May and June, then began an intensive season of competition. They expected to travel 10,000 miles to perform for judges or give exhibitions on 40 occasions, before a combined audience of 300,000, concluding with the DCI World Championships in Indianapolis in August.

The days were busy and fun. Dunham and Fletcher were backup members of the corps, and expected to fill in sooner rather than later. Already three members had been sent home due to injuries. Both had experience in high school.

“This is the next step,” said Dunham. “It’s very intense and it’s fun.”

Fletcher grew up with a band director father.

“I always knew I wanted to do this and I absolutely love it.”