[col grid=”4-2 first”]By 1980 the Pageantry Arts in the Greater Cincinnati area had dwindled into near non-existence. Where once as many as 7 drum and bugle corps had units competing in VFW, American Legion, DCI and even winter guard competition, only isolated pockets of hope remained that one day Cincinnati could support a world class competitive activity for youth interested in the traditions of marching and musical performance. Fortunately, things were about to change.
Dr. Robert Kuske, an intern at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and former member of the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps, had a vision to bring drum corps back to Cincinnati, bigger and better than ever! To make this dream a reality, Dr. Kuske knew that he would need help, and lots of it. Knowing the rich history of the activity in the area, Dr. Kuske began by contacting individuals, who had been involved with drum corps in the past, many from the Queen City Cadets organization. In the summer of 1980, flyers were printed and distributed at a drum corps competition held at the University of Cincinnati to see just how much interest existed in starting a new drum corps in the area.
With enthusiasm building, an organizational meeting was arranged. The existing Board of Directors of the Queen City Cadets was invited. In order to simplify some of the business details, it was agreed that the new organization would operate under the Not for Profit License already held by the Queen City Cadets. The Queen City Board then appointed new board members and the name of the organization was officially changed to The Pride of Cincinnati.
In the late summer and early fall of 1980, the new Board of Directors of The Pride of Cincinnati traveled throughout the Tri-state to various marching band competitions, recruiting interest in the infant drum corps. As a staff was being hired, auditions were planned. It was arranged for the first auditions to be held at the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. The turn out was large and enthusiastic! With the selection of the first members, The Pride of Cincinnati Drum and Bugle Corps was born!
As fall turned to winter, and winter into spring, preparations continued for the inaugural season of the new corps. With the staff and music selected, uniforms were designed and put into production. The first public performance of the corps took place at the Cincinnati St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March of 1981. As rehearsals continued and the season quickly neared, parents of members became involved and fund raising continued. School buses were secured to carry the corps on their first competitive tour. A preview show was scheduled at Fairfield High School in Fairfield, Ohio. The Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps was invited to perform, and a clinic for local band students was organized. Appearing with this top 12 favorite, Pride was poised to begin a promising premier season.
The competitive and organizational accomplishments of the summer of 1981 were to be forever overshadowed by the tragedy, which occurred at the completion of Pride’s first tour. Returning from Port Huron, Michigan several of the Corps members were given permission to ride in the car of one of the parents who had been touring with the Corps. In a horrid twist of fate, the car crashed during the night, killing, instantly, the driver and all four passengers. Lost forever was corps mom, Rosa Ventus, her daughter Terri Ventus, son and corps member George Ventus (bass drum), along with members Ella Bell (bass drum) and Phil Conley (rifle). Reeling from this disaster, the corps returned to Cincinnati. Perhaps born of this devastating event, is the tenacity and determination, which endures in The Pride of Cincinnati today, for it was then decided to continue the season, dedicating each performance to the memory of these individuals who had set out to be part of a world class drum corps. In an act of unbridled selflessness, board members took out personal loans to raise the $35,000 that would pay for tour buses to carry the members safely throughout the remainder of the season.
The Pride of Cincinnati Drum and Bugle Corps competed in DCI competition for only four seasons, making small but steady competitive advances, finishing 30th in 1981, 29th in 1982, and 25th in both 1983 and 1984. However, the dream of world-class performance held by Dr. Kuske and those first involved in creating The Pride of Cincinnati was yet to come true, if in an unexpected arena.
During the 1983 drum corps season, members of Pride’s color guard, along with the guard and visual staffs, began to dream of a competitive winter guard. Since the guard would be somewhat of an experiment the original group thought that they might compete under the name “Trial Run”, but when the Board of Directors agreed to provide the necessary finances, The Pride of Cincinnati Winter Guard was born. The first edition of Pride’s winter guard was designed to reflect the fun-loving spirit and close-knit relationship of the members and staff. The first Pride winter guard competed in what was then “Open Class” at the Winter Guard International Championships in 1984. Although they did not make finals that year, the experiment was a success, and it was decided that the Pride of Cincinnati Winter Guard would be allowed to grow and develop along with the Drum Corps.
Sometime earlier, in 1982, the Pride Board of Directors had seen a need to advance the financial base of the organization and had entered the world of bingo management. This new method of fund-raising was found to be quite lucrative and by 1984 expansion was made to provide for the support of both the Winter Guard and the Drum Corps. In the winter of 1985 the Drum Corps had begun preparations for its fifth year of competition and the Winter Guard had entered a very promising second season. Unbeknownst to the staff and membership, the State of Ohio ordered an audit, jeopardizing the renewal of the organization’s bingo license, and therefore leaving Pride’s financial future in question. Faced with the grim possibility of losing the organization’s main means of monetary support, the board had difficult decisions to make. Ironically, immediately following the Winter Guard’s first finals performance at WGI, the announcement was made that The Pride of Cincinnati Drum and Bugle Corps would not compete in 1985. In order to continue their support of the drum corps activity and their commitment to the Pride membership, the Board agreed to sponsor members to march in other corps during the 1985 season.
Fortunately, the state audit proved the organization’s finances to be in good order and Pride’s bingo license was ultimately renewed. However, faced with the budgetary requirements of fielding a drum corps capable of competing in the top 12, the Pride Board made the decision to no longer sponsor their own corps. Instead, it was decided that the Board would maintain their original ties by utilizing their resources to support the drum corps activity as a whole. Donations were made to various drum corps related events and activities. Contributions were made to allow individuals to experience drum corps as marching members. Pride also helped to sponsor the All Star Corps and even assisted in sending the Madison Scouts on a European Tour.
Although it is no longer in the drum corps business on a full-time basis, the dream of providing support for a world-class competitive unit from Cincinnati has indeed come to be. Since its first season in 1984, The Pride of Cincinnati Winter Guard has performed at 26 WGI Championships, making finals in 24 of those years. Pride has been a WGI bronze medalist in 1990, 1997, 1998,1999,2004,2010 and 2012 and a silver medalist in 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2008. In 2001 Pride won its first ever WGI gold medal followed by additional golds in 2005, 2007 and 2013.
The roller coaster of events that began with the dream of a small group of individuals in 1980 has continued now for more than 20 years. The evolution of the organization has been slow and often painful, but as in a family, relationships continue to grow, the bad times make us stronger and the good times give us the desire to go on. Today, the Board of Directors and the staff of the Winter Guard are made up of many individuals who have direct ties to the past of the organization. One board member served on that original board of directors in 1980. Others were marching members in the first years of the Drum Corps and Winter Guard. Our executive director even marched in the bass drum line before discovering his gift for flag and rifle! Two of our designers performed in Pride at the dawn of their brilliant winter guard careers. But, the individuals who make up the Pride of today are only a small sample of all of the people who have contributed to the rich history of our organization. Without any one person, Pride would be diminished.
As it would be impossible to name everyone who has had an impact on our organization, we have chosen to include few names in this tribute to our history. We do, however, wish to convey our thanks for every contribution that has brought our organization to this point. And finally, we make our commitment to the future…we will continue the evolution of our organization and make our future contributions to the world of the pageantry arts only those that should be remembered with Pride.[/col] [col grid=”4-1″][/col] [col grid=”4-1″]