New Hartford Winter Guard aims high for 2023 season
NEW HARTFORD — The New Hartford Winter Guard program has big plans for 2023 — a fun-filled season of hard work— that will end with going to international color guard championships.
The winter guard is split into two groups — Varsity for older, more experienced students, and Junior Varsity for younger students who are working to gain experience. Students in grades 7-12 can join the winter guard. There are 20 students in Varsity, and 14 in JV.
In New York, New Hartford competes in the Mid-York Color Guard Circuit. The guards will be attending four Mid-York shows, along with championships, which is set for April 1 in East-Syracuse Minoa.
This included New Hartford’s home show, Colorburst, which was held on Saturday, Jan. 28, for the first time since 2020. Both groups won first place.
Ryan Gerling, director of the New Hartford Winter Guard program, said his goal is for the students to have fun and enjoy themselves, while also gaining recognition for their hard work.
“At the end of the day, we hope that they all just have a fun experience,” Gerling said. “The competition’s always there, and personally, the students have their competitive side to them. We push that at some points, but overall we just try to create a positive environment for them to enjoy the activity and not stress them out. We always say, ‘It’s just flags in a gym.’”
The Varsity’s show is titled “The Waiting Room,” and is set in different waiting rooms in medical offices.
“We travel through three different waiting rooms, all medically related,” Gerling said. “It’s very relatable to everyone in the audience because everyone’s been in a waiting room at some point, for various reasons, good or bad.”
The JV’s show is called “Junior Bake-Off” and is about a baking competition. The guard members wear bright yellow aprons and spin brightly-colored flags, with cupcakes and rainbow sprinkles on them.
“They have to create their best baking masterpiece, and have three minutes to do it,” Gerling said.
The JV guard is the reigning champions for the IRA class, having won first place out of two groups at the 2022 state championships.
This year, the Varsity guard is going to the Winter Guard International (WGI) World Championships, in Dayton, Ohio. The guard will first compete at WGI regional competitions, on Feb. 11 and 12 in Corning, NY, and March 4 and 5 in Pittsburgh, PA.
The guard will then go to world championships, a three-day competition from April 13 to 15. New Hartford will be competing against 130 color guards in the Scholastic A class for 20 spots in the finals.
“It’s very long, very grueling, but the kids are doing a great job, so we’ll see,” Gerling said. “Ultimately, we’re going for the experience.”
The Varsity guard attended the regional competition in Corning in 2022. However, this will be the guard’s first time attending WGI World Championships since 1984. Varsity is the only group that will be attending, because its class is the only one that is eligible to go to WGI.
However, Gerling said that he hopes to bring the JV to a WGI regional competition in the future.
These trips are not cheap. In order to pay for the transportation, hotels and the other various costs, the winter guard has partnered with the New Hartford Indoor Percussion Ensemble to fundraise.
Currently, the groups are holding a calendar raffle. Raffle tickets cost $5 and participants get 30 chances — one per day — to win a prize. The winners will be drawn live on Facebook, from Feb.1 to March 2.
Among the prizes are a family four-pack for the Syracuse Mets, a signed picture of New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, a Cricut Maker 3, gift certificates for Calabria Coffee in New Hartford and more.
There may be one or two more fundraisers before the group sets off to Ohio.
Gerling said his favorite part of winter guard is to be the students’ “Guard Dad,” and to watch them grow and learn during their time with the program.
“It’s really just seeing the kids’ faces when they do something they’ve never done before, or push themselves, just getting to see them grow, personally and through the activity,” Gerling said.
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