Ottawa, IL United States
|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)|
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]
Highest Score 73.800
Final show in DCX Archives September 13, 1957 American Legion Nationals Prelims Juniors Atlantic City NJ placed 25 with a score of 73.800
Highest Score 72.910
Final show in DCX Archives August 22, 1959 American Legion National Championships Minneapolis MN placed 13 with a score of 72.910
Highest Score 63.500
Final show in DCX Archives August 12, 1962 Illinois State Fair Contest Springfield IL placed 7 with a score of 63.500
Highest Score 67.200
Final show in DCX Archives September 7, 1964 Rockford IL placed 6 with a score of 48.920
Highest Score 69.050
Final show in DCX Archives August 16, 1965 VFW Nationals Prelims Chicago IL placed 30 with a score of 69.050
Highest Score 53.030
Final show in DCX Archives August 7, 1966 Friendship Day Ottawa IL
Highest Score 69.150
Final show in DCX Archives August 6, 1971 Canadian Open - Class A Prelims London ONT Canada placed 6 with a score of 69.150
Highest Score 50.350
Final show in DCX Archives May 28, 1972 Belvidere IL placed 4 with a score of 50.350
Highest Score 51.600
Final show in DCX Archives August 9, 1973 U.S. Open - Class A and All Girl Prelim Marion OH placed 19 with a score of 51.600
Highest Score 72.950
Final show in DCX Archives August 4, 1974 Key To The Sea - Class B Finals Toledo OH placed 8 with a score of 50.750
Highest Score 45.150
Final show in DCX Archives July 19, 1975 Elk Grove Village IL placed 7 with a score of 45.150
Highest Score 44.250
Final show in DCX Archives July 25, 1976 Friendship with a Beat Ottawa IL
Highest Score 34.850
Final show in DCX Archives August 16, 1977 DCI World Championships - Class A and All Girl Prelims Boulder CO placed 22 with a score of 33.900
Highest Score 39.400
Final show in DCX Archives July 15, 1978 Prelims Whitewater WI placed 24 with a score of 39.400
|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|
|Varney, Edd||Drum Line/Cymbals/Bass||1961 to 1964|