Drum and bugle corps are successors to the military bugle and drum units that once served as signaling forces before the introduction of radio. Now drum and bugle corps perform in events like the March of Champions Drum & Bugle Corps Competition, returning to Dietz Stadium in Kingston for its 21st competition on Saturday, August 6. The gates open at 5:30 p.m., with a kickoff ceremony at 7 p.m. The competition starts at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $20, with proceeds benefitting the 140-year-old Children’s Home of Kingston, a nonprofit that provides services to boys and young men between the ages of 8 and 21 in need of intervention and specialized care.
Drum and bugle corps are similar to a marching band, but with essential differences: Marching bands are usually associated with schools and perform in the fall at football games, while drum corps are usually nonprofits that compete in summertime events. The instrumentation is different, too, with the drum and bugle corps using only brass bugles and drums and marching bands incorporating woodwinds and other instruments.
The competitions are very precise, says Gwen McCann, former executive director of the Children’s Home of Kingston, who even in retirement is serving as coordinator for this annual event. “The competing corps have 20 minutes to march on and go through their whole routines and then march off,” she says. They are graded on various criteria including Best Drum Major, Best Color Guard and Best Percussion. When asked what the appeal is of the tournament for spectators – the competition at Dietz Stadium draws huge crowds every year – “It’s just a really upbeat thing,” McCann says. “And there is this whole ‘drum and bugle corps world’ out there that is fascinating. We have people travel from all over the country to see these competitions. The tickets only cost $20, and it’s phenomenal entertainment for the money.”
The March of Champions is one of the largest tourism events held in the City of Kingston. McCann says that she believes it began 23 years ago when one of the boys in the group home was a member of the then-active Kingston Indians drum and bugle corps.
There will be six drum and bugle corps on Saturday from the Tri-State area competing in the March of Champions. The Excelsior, the Sunrisers and the White Sabers are all from New York; the Fusion Core and the Hawthorne Caballeros are from New Jersey and Connecticut’s entry is the Hurricanes. Three additional units will perform in exhibition: the Caballeros Alumni from New Jersey and two New York outfits, the 20th Century Limited and the Saints’ Brigade.
Tickets will be available to purchase at the gate after 9:30 a.m. the day of the event. The competition is an all-weather event.
March of Champions Drum & Bugle Corps Competition, Saturday, August 6, 8 p.m., $20, Dietz Stadium, 170 North Front Street, Kingston; (845) 331-1448, extension 1122 or 1115, www.childrenshomeofkingston.org.