The La Crosse Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps is back in the big time.
The Blue Stars will join the Madison Scouts, the Cavaliers of Rosemont, Ill., the Cadets of Bergen County, N.J., and 20 other elite drum corps in Division I or open class in 2006. Drum Corps International’s board of directors voted Saturday to accept the Blue Stars’ application for Division I after 23 years as a Division II or III corps.
“I was ecstatic with the announcement and grateful for all the work some 20 years before me,” said Greg Struve, the Blue Stars’ executive director. “I’m in awe. It’s a big day for the Blue Stars and La Crosse.”
The Blue Stars were the only corps accepted as a new Division I member for next summer. Struve said the Blue Stars are the only veteran corps to ever fold and then return to Division I.
“This is unprecedented, and it’s like moving from college football to the NFL,” Struve said. “Moving back to Division I rarely happens anymore, and we’re the first founding member to come back.”
The Blue Stars were a charter member of Drum Corps International and eight times were Division I finalists from 1972 to 1979, including a second-place finish in 1972. The Blue Stars folded after the 1982 season due to financial problems after they finished 37th at the world championships.
The La Crosse corps was reorganized as a small corps in 1983. The Blue Stars became one of the most successful Division II/III corps in drum corps history. They qualified for the Division II/III world championship finals 21 straight years and won four Division III world championships.
Struve, who was also named 2005 director of the year for the DCI Central region, said the DCI board was impressed with the Blue Stars’ 2005 travel schedule and show and their third-place finish in Division II at the world championships.
“The board was impressed with our growth and improvement in performance as well as we are financially stable,” Struve said. “But the biggest thing we had going for us was we are the Blue Stars.
“We have a long track record of being a respectable and successful organization, which has led by example whatever division we have been in,” he said.
After the Blue Stars were reorganized in 1983, Brad Furlano of Onalaska, Wis., was the first drum major and served for 12 years. His two brothers, Bruce, and Brandon, followed him as drum majors.
“It’s the greatest thing ever for the Blue Stars,” said Brad Furlano, now a Blue Stars’ board member. “It’s a realization of a dream for so many Blue Stars who marched in Division II/III.
“But even more so, it’s a great day for La Crosse because this corps now will have a bigger national stage again,” he said. “That means a big stage for La Crosse, too.”
Struve said the Blue Stars will perform at more major shows next season and share the national stage with the top 20 elite corps in the world.
Dawn Christianson, a La Crosse native who marched with the Blue Stars from 1972 to 1975, said the return to Division I is a milestone for the Blue Stars.
“I had tears of joy, and I’m so excited,” said Christianson, who has been one of the most committed corps volunteers. “We just kept plugging along over the years, and we never said die. It’s a dream that has come true.”
Struve said he already expected most of his 130-member corps returning next season, but now a return to Division I will help recruiting.
“We’re going to have a big, big corps, and we’re going to get even better,” Struve said.
Struve and his staff more than doubled the size of the corps the past two years, and the Blue Stars became the fastest-growing drum corps in the country. In 2005, the Blue Stars had their largest corps in almost 25 years.
“We’re going to rebuild the alumni base, and being back in Division I will help big time,” Struve said. “I’m excited about it.”