By David Hill
To help usher in Winter Guard International’s 40th Anniversary, let’s tell the stories of some of the activity’s first “Super Guards,” each a World Champion: Quasar, Skylarks, Erte, State Street Review, Odyssey, San Jose Raiders, and Emerald Marquis. Who better to remind us all of the impact these units made than the directors, designers, instructors, and performers? They take us back and help us relive each guard, as they remember the shows and stories that made them one of the first “Super Guards” in WGI. Today: One of WGI’s Champions, State Street Review.
From Madison, Wisconsin, under the direction of Sal Salas and Luann Russell-Salas, State Street Review competed from 1978-1989, and then from 1992-1993.
State Street Review was never not a “thing” in color guard. Its “Epcot/Gershwin” show in 1984 was both its break out year and won the Silver medal. After that, five Gold medals and three Fan Favorite productions in a row — including two championship ties, with Erte’ Productions and Odyssey — culminated in 1989’s Gold medal / Fan Favorite “Salsa,” a Latin street dance party that broke open many creative windows for the activity. Two Bronze medals capped off its competitive years.
The original costume of painter’s pants, rainbow socks and suspenders portrayed the care free spirit of the guard and that something quite unique had come to WGI. Most costumes were handmade by Luann Russell-Salas, and almost all of State Street’s staff taught over the years for the love of the guard and its guard family. Usually only consultants were paid.
If fact, according to Kristin Mathews, member 1981-82, and instructor 1983-1987 and 1992-1993, volunteers spent countless hours behind the scenes.
Jim Dietrich, a member’s father, spray painted the panels and other props. Also, bus driver Ed Biondo, was the father of two members.
Especially in the mid 80’s, she recalls, “we would spend every spare moment in Luann’s art room at the McFarland schools making props, costumes, flags; always adding to the detailing to embellish the story/theme of the year.”
The “Seasons” production in particular: “Luann and I spent literally every day from November right up until WGI working on something to do with the show. The props, original score and costume changes made it truly special. I think I cried every single time I saw that show!”
State Street was innovative within the color guard world as one of the first to incorporate movement, have costume changes, and use large, scene-setting props. Staff said the guard was known for great equipment handling and drill design; also for striving to always be fun, always be classy.
Many leaders of the guards today were either taught by, marched in, or are “descendants” of the State Street Review.
About the Author: David Hill is a former Communications Director for Winter Guard International, and volunteered for Drum Corps International for 20 years. A long-time writer on all things pageantry, he was a marketing / fundraising executive in Birmingham, AL for 40 years. David is now retired and lives in Pensacola, FL, where he continues restoration of his 100-year-old cottage, is writing a memoir, honing his baking skills, lending a volunteer hand to four local non-profits, and pal-ing around with his Hurricane Katrina evacuee and buddy, Purvis.