So, seeing as it is late April that means that most of the colorguard world is still in a state of post-season depression. More specifically the colorguard world has sunk into a state of post-Dayton depression. WGI World Championships, affectionately called “Debbie” or simply “Dayton” is held in Dayton, Ohio every April. Hundreds of color guards come from all over the world, yes the world, to compete and to see what the rest of the world is made of. Today, I’m going to talk to you about what it’s like being at Dayton for a week.
To start with, Dayton week is probably to most nerve-racking yet exciting thing there is in the colorguard world. All of a sudden Facebook is covered in old throwback action shots, practices are more intense, and you’re loading up into vans, buses, planes, cars, whatever it takes to get to Ohio. Then you make it to Ohio and all of a sudden it’s Thursday: prelims day. You show up at whatever venue you’re performing at, the Dayton Convention Center, Nutter Center, Cintas Center, or if you’re world class University of Dayton Arena itself. Prelims are often a scary, silent blur. If you’re lucky enough to be A class you can probably hear a pin drop during your performance. But no matter what happens next you did it. You performed in Dayton, Ohio against the best in the country.
Next, is semifinal’s. If you make the cut to semi’s it feels just like prelims. Another blur of excitement and nervous energy. But finals are where another whole level of excitement happens. At this point it’s just about giving it everything you have while not overdoing it. It’s a fine line to balance on. Honestly the best part about making finals in Dayton is the finals retreat. This year was the first time I had ever personally been to finals retreat in Dayton and it was an experience I’ll never forget. This year, 2016, A class finals were held in the Nutter Center. The lights were turned out except for the spotlights that highlighted each guard as they walked out onto that floor for the final time. Everyone has ridiculous hats and beads and whatever else instructors could throw together. You’re packed in tight because every performer on every guard is on the floor together. The buzz is so palpable you can feel it in the air. But the real magic happens after scores are announced. When it’s all over and done, medals have been given out, and lives changed forever, the confetti canons go off. All of a sudden the sky is filled with glittering gold and silver confetti and it rains down on the performers. If there is any magic in the world we live in, I believe it exists in that moment. You have this ridiculously giddy feeling as you stand there, confetti landing everywhere and anywhere it can. Whether you’ve made 15th or 1st its incredible to know you worked hard enough and you were good enough to make it to the point where dreams come true.
Now, whether you make it to semis or even finals at some point you will walk into University of Dayton Arena and take it from me, there is nothing like watching colorguard in that arena. Whether you’re watching scholastic or independent, prelims, semis or finals it’s intense and absolutely mind-blowing. The seating goes a full 360 degrees and most of it is way higher than any high school gym you’ve ever been in. A guard pulls out their floor, uniforms (usually) glittering, and that WGI announcer gives you a show title that you’ll probably forget five seconds after you hear it. Then for the next five minutes you don’t have to think about anything but enjoying the show put on in front of you. And so goes the next however long you get the privilege of watching in the arena for, whether that’s for half an hour or several hours. You lose track of time in the arena. It’s like a bubble, giving you somewhere where nothing on the outside matters. All that matters is flags, rifles and sabre’s going into the air, props being set up an torn down at impressive speeds, and performers giving you everything they’ve got. Honestly there’s a little bit of magic in that too. The real world doesn’t have to matter and color guard can be your sole focus. As someone whose biggest passion in life lies in this sport of the arts, that makes all the difference in the world.
Honestly, I could go on forever about Dayton. I could tell you every last detail from the four years I’ve been. About how it’s different going as a high school senior and as a college junior. I could talk for a paragraph alone about the Dippin’ Dots line in UD Arena during world-class finals. But the best way to get the true Dayton experience, the purest way, is to go yourself. Even if your school or unit can’t afford to go and compete, go. Make it a vacation. Go see what Dayton is all about. Skip school. Call in sick to work. Those things can wait for one weekend. For one weekend get wrapped up in the excitement, in the awe, in the magic of WGI Finals in Dayton, Ohio.
Written by Kerri Seaman