Drums Along the Waterfront carries on without losing a beat - The Buffalo News
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Drums Along the Waterfront carries on without losing a beat

Sometimes, the beat must go on, no matter what the obstacles.

Take for instance, Drums Along the Waterfront, which has attracted marching bands and crowds to Buffalo since 1997, when the first event was held at NorthAmericare Park, now known as Coca-Cola Field.

This year’s event will take place Sunday, but not without some last-minute maneuvering.

Ralph Wilson Stadium was last year’s site, but it wasn’t available this year because it is under renovation.

So the marquee marching musical event was scheduled to move to the University at Buffalo, a more than capable backup host, event organizer Jack Gaylord Jr. said.

But unanticipated field repairs at UB Stadium made that facility unavailable as well – after tickets for the event were already being sold.

With little time to find a solution, Gaylord and Drum Corps International faced a problem. After all, football stadiums of substantial size don’t grow on trees.

“It came down to: Are we going to run the show or not?” said Gaylord, noting that at one point the event was promoted with its location unknown.

Ultimately, they didn’t want to disappoint thousands of fans. They looked around and set their sights on All High Stadium, the next-largest option at 5,000 seats.

“The executive director from Drum Corps International flew in,” Gaylord said. “We went over to All High Stadium, and he and I were sitting in the stands, and we were discussing the event and the different aspects that we faced, and I looked at him and he looked at me, and I said, ‘Well, are we running?’ The response was, ‘We have to.’ ”

Commence a hectic month of planning for Gaylord and company, who have been working with the City of Buffalo, Buffalo Public Schools, the Buffalo Police Department and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in preparation of the event.

Making the public aware of the late change has been the biggest challenge, Gaylord said.

Posters and some 10,000 fliers had listed the old site. Those who purchased tickets for the performance at the University at Buffalo were refunded by UB’s ticketing service, Ticketmaster. Ticket buyers who paid with cash at the UB box office were difficult to notify. A second postcard was sent to members of the Drums Along the Waterfront mailing list to alert as many of the unexpected switch as possible.

Since All High Stadium doesn’t have its own ticketing service, Drum Corps International had to create a seating chart for the stadium and handle the new sales, which began July 4. “We had to switch gears just totally,” Gaylord said. “How do you get the word out to the people that we did?”

“Basically what we had was a year’s worth of work to do in a month,” he added. “I’m pretty much running on fumes. To be honest, the norm is a 20-hour day ever since the change. ... We’ve got the marathon here, and yet it’s a sprint.”

The top drum corps from last year’s World Championship perform in the Drums Along the Waterfront Tour of Champions.

The corps, who own a combined 40 world championships, are: Blue Devils (Concord, Calif.), Bluecoats (Canton, Ohio), Carolina Crown (Fort Mill, S.C.), Santa Clara Vanguard (Santa Clara, Calif.), the Cadets (Allentown, Pa.), the Cavaliers (Rosemont, Ill.) and Troopers (Casper, Wyo.).

Corps consist of 150 members – percussionists, brass musicians and a color guard – and their styles of music range from jazz to classical to rock to show tunes. Musicians sleep and practice at local high schools before the show.

Gaylord said spectators will see an impressive display of discipline Sunday in what he calls a musical sport, one “like a Broadway show on a football field.”

“They’re the best musical athletes in the country,” he said of the performers, whose ages range from 14 to 21. “They are athletes in order to do what they do on the field. They have to be able to play. We call it marching, but they’re running. At times their heart rates are up to 180 beats per minute.

“What they’ll see is something that’s so professional you don’t realize that it is youth out on the field.”

Tickets range from $17 to $40 and can be purchased online at www.dci.org/tickets or by calling (317) 275-1212. The All High Stadium box office will open at 3 p.m. Sunday. The performance is at 7.

Tickets purchased for the originally scheduled performance at UB Stadium will not be accepted.

Free First Student bus shuttle service will be provided from the NFTA LaSalle park & ride only.

email: scampbell@buffnews.com

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