Spirit of Atlanta sweeps across WBHS field
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · July 19, 2013

They go through $20,000 of Gatorade each summer, eat 800 meals per day out of a truck named “Peaches” and often sleep on inflatable mattresses before practicing three to 10 hours a day. It’s not a football team.

It is the Spirit of Atlanta Drum & Bugle Corp, which stopped at West Branch High School July 10-11 before performing in Muscatine.

Four buses, two tractor-trailers, a van, a Suburban and several parent cars accompany the 154 mostly college-age performers, Membership Coordinator/Acting Corp Director Lindsey Lingerfelt said.

And when the group did a run-through of their 10-minute routine at 2:55 p.m. July 11, a crowd that included many music and show choir students took over the stands to watch and applaud.

The “Speakeasy” tour runs from June 21 through Aug. 11 and the Spirit of Atlanta travels all over the Midwest competing against 21 other drum corps good enough to qualify for national competitions. They perform before different sets of judges and were ranked No. 9 before Muscatine.

“West Branch has been fantastic,” Lingerfelt said. “It is a great spot to be … and Iowa is a wonderful place to stay.”

Performers range from 15 to 21 years of age, he said, and are supported by 30 staff and 15 volunteers on the tour. Yet with all their traveling and practice, they only carve out two days in the summer to tour the sites, Lingerfelt said, so none were able to break away for the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum.

Drum Corps International organizes the stops, and West Branch High School’s music department arranged to get put on the list. Spirit of Atlanta picked the tour, and DCI picked WBHS as one of their stops.

Corp members come from all over the United States, Lingerfelt said, but because of differing school years, some had to fly in or ride a bus to practice on weekends before summer break started.

“They are so dedicated,” he said.

He said the summer program costs “almost seven figures” — more than the $2,600 tuition from each member. Donations, grants and a very small portion of the gate at each performance cover the rest, he said.

And no matter what the age, everyone is expected to reach the “same level” of performance, he said.

“There are never enough hours,” Lingerfelt said of the corps’ total practice time each day.

To squeeze in every possible minute, they send a scout an hour ahead of each stop to get in the door, hang signs and work out details to keep the group from unnecessary down time when the bus doors open up.

“It’s a little insane,” Lingerfelt said.

The Spirit of Atlanta wanted to finish the season in the Top 12, he said, as they have the last several years. But they are only one slot away from the “Elite Eight” this year, and so they now have a new goal.

“They’re hungry,” Lingerfelt said.

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