The pageantry returns.
After a two-year pandemic absence, drum and bugle corps from across the country will travel to Erie County for the 39th annual Lake Erie Marching Band.
The Drum Corps International The event, which kicks off Monday at 7 p.m. at Sox Harrison Stadium in Edinboro, will feature performances from five top corps:
- The Academyfrom Tempe, Arizona
- blue starsfrom La Crosse, Wisconsin
- Ferriesfrom San Antonio, TX
- Genesisfrom Austin, Texas
- Madison Scoutsfrom Madison, Wisconsin
Ray Luniewski, executive director of Lake Erie Fanfare, said the event will be days away from the finals of the Drum Corps International World Championship August 11-13 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
So the five bodies performing in Erie — which have been on tour since June — will likely be at their “peak performance,” he said.
Luniewski acknowledged:35 years of marching band
“If you’ve never experienced it and you’ve never seen it, that’s not what your preconceptions are,” said Luniewski, who has organized the Lake Erie Fanfare since its inception. “A lot of times people think it’s another marching band show or another halftime show – it’s not. It’s more like a theatrical performance with live music than you’d expect. see on Broadway.”
The corps are generally nonprofit groups—not associated with a college or high school—made up of about 100 members, all between the ages of 13 and 22.
Each body is divided into three performing ensembles: brass, color guard and percussion. And each year, each drum corps will prepare a single show, about 8 to 12 minutes long, which they will refine throughout the summer, according to Drum Corps International.
A “hard reboot” of COVID-19
The last two years, however, have been difficult.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Drum Corps International canceled its 2020 summer tour and held an abbreviated 29-show tour in 2021.
In a typical pre-pandemic year, the tour includes over 100 competitive events.
While this year’s tour is back in shape with more than 90 events scheduled between June and August, Luniewski said it’s been a “tough restart”, with COVID-19 still a threat to traveling body performers.
“Right now we’re struggling,” he said. “Two groups ended up shutting down for about a week because COVID came in. And there are currently three groups struggling.”
Since artists spend long periods on a bus with around 40 other people, touring can be especially perilous if someone falls ill, Luniewski said. As such, body groups adhere to various safety protocols during rehearsals and performances to ensure limited exposure.
“All they’re going to do is run around the stadium, put on a show and they’ll be back in what they consider their ‘bubble’,” Luniewski said. “Because everyone says, ‘We did this for two months. We are one week away from the championships. It will be a hell of a thing to throw it away now. “
Luniewski said the five bodies coming to Erie haven’t suffered any major COVID-19-related setbacks this summer.
He added that he was happy to see Lake Erie Fanfare return to Drum Corps International’s touring schedule, given that this year’s tour was further abbreviated and omitted some stops, including Buffalo.
“I think it’s because of our longevity,” Luniewski said. “We’ve been around for almost 40 years in Drum Corps International’s 50 years.”
Where to buy tickets? When to arrive?
For tickets, call 814-456-5300. Checks and major credit cards are accepted.
Tickets are $30 and will reserve a seat opposite the performances. Once all reserved tickets are sold, general admission to back seats – or seats facing the performers’ backs – will become available for $10.
Luniewski said the best time to arrive is between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. The show will end no later than 9:30 p.m.
Masks are optional.
Luniewski encouraged the public to show their support for this Erie County tradition.
“It’s definitely not what you expect,” he said. “It’s just brass. It’s just percussion. You have movement, you have color, you have sound – it really is a spectacle on a football pitch.”