‘Drums’ to fall silent in 2020

Local Drums Along the Mohawk competition cancelled over fears of possible work at RFA stadium

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When it comes to organizing annual events, such as Drums Along the Mohawk, hard decisions are often anxiety producing, organizers say.

On the heels of Thursday headlines announcing the 2020 Drums along the Mohawk event— which is part of Drum Corps Internationals summer nationwide competition tour that brings drum corps ensembles from across the country to Rome — would be cancelled, event organizers say the decision was not taken lightly.

“I didn’t sleep well last night,” said Claudette Wire, director of Drums Along the Mohawk, and its committee Friday morning. “The backlash has not been comfortable.”

But Wire said there was no other viable choice.

She said Drum Corps International (DCI) needed to be notified by the middle of September whether the Rome show was a definite in order to complete preparations for the 2020 Summer Tour.

After careful deliberation, Wire said they made the decision to notify DCI that Drums Along the Mohawk does not have an acceptable venue locally, and would be unable to present the show next summer due to the proposed construction at Rome Free Academy Stadium during the summer of 2020.

A statement posted to the Drums Along the Mohawk website, indicated the stadium most likely would not be available for the 42nd annual show, which would have been scheduled the first Thursday in August.

The issue

The cancellation came to light this week as the summer tour schedule was released by DCI, with the Rome show not on the lineup.

Since then, Wire said she had been inundated with messages offering alternatives. However, in coming to the decision to cancel, Wire said she and her team had already looked at other possible solutions.

“We looked at every single venue that we know about,” Wire said Friday morning, “There’s a lot behind the scenes that people don’t know about. Nobody has the (outdoor) stadium seating that we need,” she said.

Locally, the event requires at least 3,000 seating capacity. “Proctor High School (where the event was held one year) does not have the seating capacity we need,” Wire added.

Attendance figures for past shows at RFA Stadium were not available, although organizers said today that attendance had been consistent over the past few years.

Further, the marching-heavy event can’t be held on a hard-floored surface such as the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Nor can it be held on outdoor blacktopped areas in the summer heat, Wire said.

When there are other logistic solutions to work out such as parking and housing for the participants. If the event were to be held somewhere else, “we would need to start all over from scratch coordinating everything,” she said.

Thursday evening, Drums Along the Mohawk Publicity Coordinator Roseann Grotevant said Wire had been in contact with school district officials, but Superintendent Peter C. Blake said in a statement he was unaware of the decision to cancel the show.

Asked about the potential construction and whether it would have interfered with scheduling, Blake said, “I know nothing about this.

Generally, the folks that operate the show communicate often with me, but in this case they have not. Since there is no approved project currently, it would be premature to assume that the facility isn’t available. Even if there were a successful vote, it may not preclude Drums Along the Mohawk from occurring as it could be possible to work the repair schedule around the event.”

The superintendent further stated, “The proposed work to the stadium is not major in scope and includes a simple replacement of the turf and track. There is no proposed work to the grandstand. At this time, there is no way to know if the project would or would not interfere with the event. If a successful vote were to occur, the barriers to a quick project would be the bidding process, SED (state Education Department) approval, and weather — all things that are out of our control.”

The school district is expected to vote on the project Wednesday, Dec. 18.

“Claudette had to make a decision now, but without a definite yes” that construction would not interfere, “we couldn’t proceed with DCI,” Grotevant said. “It was a very difficult decision to make with all the unknowns.”

Wire added she would be reaching out to Blake Friday morning.

“We hope the Drums Along the Mohawk fans will continue to support the DCI drum corps and their members,” said Wire in a previous statement.

Officials with DCI headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind. could not be reached for comment.

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