Some of the most exciting days of the color guard activity took place in the late 70’s and early 80’s when east coast, midwest, and west coast organizations got together and competed for what was then called the WGI Olympics.
Prior to 1978, the national color guard championship was determined during the summer at the DCI Drum & Bugle Corps Championships or by National contests of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. In August of 1977, at the DCI Championships in Denver, Colorado, the Holly Hawks of Holly, NY were crowned the national champions defeating the great St. Anthony’s Imperials in a contest that was extremely close. St. Anthony’s was ever so smooth in their equipment presentation, fluid from start to finish and also the defending champions. Holly was the super clean, intense, machine from upstate NY. The scores were very close, but St. Anthony’s also received a penalty for a flag trail violation and Holly was crowned National Champion. Now if you understand what a flag trail is, or remember that incident, you have been around for some time and have seen this activity change a tremendous amount. Little did many of the people in attendance know that color guard was about to change in a major way.
Up until that point in time, judges training, score sheets, show requirements, yes I said requirements, and even length of program times were different from one part of the country to the other. Stylistically the eastern guards emphasized equipment, the mid-west drill, and the west dance. The intent was to unify the activity and provide a national championship for color guard during the color guard season.
The initial meeting was very well attended by representatives from all parts of the country. At the conclusion of that day it was decided that Lynn Lindstrom, the present head of the mid-west color guard circuit, would head this newly formed organization for the first year, a post she has held for all twenty-three years of Winter Guard International’s existence. Four existing guard circuits each donated $250 to provide the initial $1000 need to operate the initial season. The organization was run from Lynn Lindstrom’s house due to the lack of funds and the newness of the organization.
The first WGI championship was held in the Chicago area. The preliminary contest was held at Crown High School and was attended by 29 units competing in 1 class. The finals contest was held at Schaumburg HS and featured the top 15 units from that prelims contest. Today many of the same volunteers from that first contest still help out at the championship contest that has now grown to over 400 unit performances during the championship weekend.
The first year there were 2 size floors. Every guard carried the American Flag. Many guards carried wooden dowels with bicycle grips as sabers. There were 30 guards competing, WGI had a volunteer staff of 10 people, and executive director Lynn Lindstrom sewed the championship flag herself by hand.
Please enjoy these pictures from the formative years of WGI as well as some of the stories from the color guard era before the Emerald Marquis came into existence.
Watch for more WGI historical
information in the future.
I would not have had access to this information over the years had it not been for my associations with Winter Guard International, Drum Coprs World, Emerald Marquis, and the now deceased Drum Corps News. We thank all of those organizations and brightest flashlight for allowing me to be close to and a part of this great activity.