FORTVILLE — As spectators entered the gym, they paid their admission and strapped on color-coded wristbands to direct them to their place in the stands.
Black paper draped the windows on the inner doors to the gymnasium, with volunteers stationed to hold visitors at bay while performances went on inside.
Saturday marked the first time Mt. Vernon High School was tapped to host a competition sponsored by the Indiana High School Color Guard Association that welcomed hundreds of performers from 48 guards from across Central Indiana.
And Mt. Vernon was ready.
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Dozens of adult and student volunteers from the booster club supporting the district’s bands and guards kept the inaugural Mt. Vernon Winter Guard Invitational running smoothly. Members of the Mt. Vernon Music Boosters said the district made a bid to be able to host the competition, and it was a decision they were pleased with.
“We hope it will be a yearly event,” said Erin Flick, music boosters treasurer. “We hope to host it for years to come.”
Winter guard teams from three of Hancock County’s four school districts competed Saturday. The competition split Regional A class competition into three rounds. Greenfield-Central High School’s Regional A team placed fourth in its round, with a score of 49.69; Mt. Vernon High School’s winter guard placed third in its round with a score of 60.62. New Palestine High School’s guard also competed Saturday but did not place in the top five in its round.
Winter guard performances are judged on choreography, the use of equipment like flags, rifles and sabres, movement, general effect and timing, said Derek Ellinger, Mt. Vernon band director. Guards have between seven and eight minutes to be on the floor and use about two minutes to set up, laying down brightly colored tarps and props, before beginning their performances. The groups, aided by parents and other students, clear out just as quickly in order for the next group to perform.
Guard directors from several schools complimented the organization of the event, confirming Ellinger’s belief that Mt. Vernon High School is well-equipped to host the competition, he said.
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity to show the state our facilities,” he said. “We have a great music booster program with dozens of volunteers here today. I am very proud, and I know our principals are, too. They’ve been very supportive.”
Though nearly 50 different guards performed throughout the day, the one whose routine received the greatest applause was a local group not up for any awards. Destiny Color Guard, a group of young performers with special needs and volunteers who help them during their routine, took the floor for a special exhibition.
After the group of nine dancers and 14 volunteers danced and waved their flags to the theme, “Be brave, be fearless,” the crowd gave the performers a standing ovation.
Some of the volunteers for the Destiny Color Guard — organized by local advocacy group Families United for Support and Encouragement — left the floor with tears in their eyes after the audience stood up and cheered.
The young adults who choreograph the routines and teach the dancers were touched the crowd was so responsive to the dancers’ hard work, said student director Julia Black.
“These kids do work hard, and they all enjoy doing this amazing activity, so when the crowd loved it, I thought it was incredible,” Black, a Greenfield-Central High School junior, said.
Audiences at guard competitions are always enthusiastic about the Destiny group’s performances, said FUSE co-founder Denise Arland.
“They’ve got an appreciation for what these kids do, and the response is always out of this world,” she said.
Jordyn Bever founded the group eight years ago, and FUSE took over running the group this year. The directors are now Teresa Bever, mother of Jordyn Bever, and Black.
There were tears from members of the audience and the volunteers alike, Teresa Bever said.
“The kids love that kind of reception,” she said. “We find we get that kind of response from guard parents and participants, because they know how hard these kids are working.”
While most people may think of marching bands and football fields when they think of guard, there’s more than one guard season. Winter guard is performed indoors to recorded music. Guards use brightly colored tarps and props alongside their rifles, flags and sabres to bring the music to life.
Source: Winter Guard International