Crusaders of County LaSalle


Other Names:Marquette Crusaders, Ottawa Crusaders, LaFlamme Brigade

Ottawa, IL United States
Founded: 1954

Inactive Junior
YearPositionScoreTheme/Songs
1976 Great Day * Joker * Sabre Dance * Offertory Mass * Free Again  
1977 222 33.900 (Repertoire not available)  
1978 Great Gate of Kiev (from Pictures at an Exhibition) * Symphonic Soul * Storm at Sunup * Star Wars * Evergreen (from A Star is Born)  
Position 200+ indicates Division II, Position 300+ indicates Division III, Position 400+ indicates Mini Corps.

CORPS Photos

The Crusaders of County LaSalle, formed in 1954, was a junior marching and maneuvering corps based in Ottawa, Illinois.

In the days after World War I, many high schools in the country sponsored their own drum corps as part of ROTC programs. After World War II, however, corps sponsorship shifted from school systems to local VFWs, American Legions, independent parties, and other organizations. One of these new corps was the Cornets, a senior corps sponsored by American Legion Post 33 in Ottawa. One of its members was newly returned serviceman and future DCI Hall of Famer Ken Kobold. (Kobold is renowned today for his vast collection of corps recordings.)

In 1954, Marquette High School head Fr. Edward Duke expressed an interest to Ken in forming a drum corps, to be comprised of local parochial school boys and alumni. In April of 1954 the two patched together the all-boy corps with makeshift uniforms and equipment, and the group made its inaugural appearance in Ottawa’s Decoration Day parade.

Later, the corps acquired second-hand uniforms and equipment from the General George Bell VFW Post in Chicago. These uniforms happened to be the familiar satin blue, and the newly blue-uniformed Crusaders came to be known as the Blu Cru.

The Crusaders found a good deal of success in the early years. 1957 brought a fourth-place finish at American Legion state finals, good enough for a berth at Nationals in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Blu Cru was the only corps representing the state of Illinois and finished in 25th place in the entire United States. The following year, 1958, found the Cru in 18th place in American Legion competition.

1960 brought about a big change in the Crusaders when they added an “experimental” 15-girl color guard. The intent was for the boys who used to march guard to bolster the music sections. The new color guard sergeants were Judy Ftacek and Nadine Ballerini. The drum major was Bill Walsh, assisted by Bill Stevenson. The corps was managed in 1960 by Bill Farrar. Ken Kobold served as the advisor and booking agent. The horns section and drill was instructed by Dick Tarsitano of the Skokie Indians. Drums were instructed by former Norwood Park Imperial Tony DeMarco. The new color guard was instructed by USMC recruiter Gunnery Sgt. Bill West.

1966 was another milestone in the Crusaders history. When corps membership was no longer restricted to parochial school students, the group's name was changed from Marquette Crusaders to the Crusaders of Ottawa. The roster listed membership at 80 and the kids came from as far away as Rockford and Macomb, Illinois. Another first for ’66 was the establishment of the annual Friendship Day, a joint effort between the Ottawa Jaycees and the corps. This event was touted as one of the biggest civic pride events in Illinois, and included a proclamation from then-Governor Otto Kerner. Sunday’s drum corps show featured some of the very best in the world at that time: Cavaliers (who won), Skokie Vanguards, Royal-Aires, Norwood Park Imperials, Racine Scouts, Black Knights, and McHenry Viscounts.

The next couple of years were rebuilding years for the Crusaders. The membership had dropped below 70, and the scores showed the need for improvement.

By 1971, the Cru was starting to move up the ladder again. Taking seventh at American Legion state finals was a key turning point. An invitation to visit Canada was the highlight of the season; the corps placed seventh in the Canadian Open.

The Crusaders became the sole sponsors of the Friendship Days activities after the Jaycees dropped out in 1972. The Cru finished seventh against 16 other corps at VFW state competition, and found the same finish at American Legion state finals three weeks later.

The Crusaders travelled to Toledo, Ohio, in 1974 to participate in the Key to the Sea contest, a gathering that brought the best drum corps in North America together as a prelude to DCI Championships. The Blu Cru scored well enough to earn a spot in the B class night show, where they finished eighth.

The Crusaders finished up their 1977 season in Denver, Colorado, at the Drum Corps International Championships, where they placed 22nd in Class A Prelims.

Around 1980 many drum corps across the country faced difficult economic times. Money was very tight in those years, and donations were very hard to come by. The Crusaders' membership declined to its lowest level ever. In a last-ditch effort to revitalize the corps, the name was changed to LaFlamme Brigade. The corps placed 20th in Drum Corps Midwest competition with a score of 29.85; the flame was flickering out. At the end of the run, the corps had become only a parade unit, and was disbanded.

Managers of the Crusaders over the years included Ken Kobold, Bill Farrar, John Halterman, Dan Haley, Bob O’Conner, Roy Hollenbeck, John Verona, Mike Ohlendorf, Dale Ballerini and F. Jerry Lewis.

[Kevin Foster; www.blucru.homestead.com; A History of Drum & Bugle Corps, 2002]

Members (12)

Member Name Section Years Involved
doherty, mike soprano 1966 to 1971
Foster, Donna Percussion 1973 to 1975
Foster, Kevin Brass 1973 to 1977
Heydt, MaryBeth Percussion 1975 to 1976
McCollum, Bill Percussion 1978 to 1981
Patterson, Pat baritone 1966 to 1967
Pierce, Mark Cymbals, Tympani 1973 to 1974
Ross, Al Drum Line 1978 to 1980
Shaw, Kim Rifle, Drum Major 1974 to 1979
Smudzinski, Ken Drum Line 1977 to 1981
Strieff, Walter Mellophone 1980
Varney, Edd Drum Line/Cymbals/Bass 1961 to 1964
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