Dowagiac winter guard hosts friends, family show

DOWAGIAC — Members of Dowagiac Union High School’s winter guard channeled Greek mythology as they emerged for their winter showcase with blue, scaly makeup on their faces and carrying blue flags in hand to mimic the waves of an ocean.

On Thursday evening, the winter guard presented a show titled “Medusa” for a crowd of friends and family to showcase what the group has been working on throughout the past few weeks.

Also at the performance, instructors Elizabeth Rife and Claire Wielichowski passed out awards honoring the members of the color guard.

Rife, who has been instructing color guard for four years at Dowagiac, competed in color guard during her time in high school and also was part of Western Michigan University’s Bronco Guard.

Wielichowski was brought in for the football season by Rife to help plan the dance and choreography for the color guard. She grew up as a baton twirler, picking up the art at the age of 5. She continued throughout high school and was a twirler for the WMU Bronco band.

“I’ve had a blast. This year was my first experience with color guard because they didn’t have it at my high school,” she said to the crowd. “I’ve really had a great time teaching the girls.”

Rife said the color guard is an essential part of the marching band as it provides a visual aspect.

During color guard performances, members use a variety of props, including, most traditionally, flags, hoops and banners. The performances also involve dancing and choreographed routines to help interpret the music of the band.

“Winter guard is fun because we get to utilize all of that and put it in our own little space in the gym, and you don’t have to worry about the elements or hitting band members,” Rife said. “It’s really fun, and we get to focus on our technique. We also get to have some one-on-one instruction.”

Wielichowski said winter guard also helps members keep their skill set during the marching band’s offseason. When color guard members return to marching band season, they will feel more prepared, she said.

Instructors said the winter guard’s last performance at halftime of a Chieftain basketball game on Tuesday — was successful.

Despite also battling a “plague,” at Dowagiac Union High School, Wielichowski said winter guard members still showed up and worked hard at practices to make up for absences.

“We added on an extra hour for the last five rehearsals,” she said. “The girls were here for five weeks, and they were more than willing to show up early and stay late to help out.”

A round of applause convened from family members and friends after the winter guard’s performance.

Following the performance, members said the group felt like a family.

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