published Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Winter guard units marching into McKenzie


What: Winter Guard International's Mid South Color Guard Championships

When: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, March 9, and 9 a.m.-noon Sunday, March 10

Where: UTC McKenzie Arena, 720 E. Fourth St.

Admission: $17 Saturday only, $20 Sunday only, $30 weekend pass

Phone: 423-266-6627

Fifty-five winter guard units from 11 states will converge on McKenzie Arena this weekend for the Mid South Color Guard Championships hosted by Winter Guard International.

The event is the first time WGI has hosted a winter guard competition in this city. McKenzie Arena has previously hosted winter guard and percussion competitions for the Southern Association for Performance Arts.

Winter guard is the pageantry of a marching band's color guard -- minus the band.

"It's a little more dance- and theater-oriented," says Ahmed Al Shabibi, local spokesman.

Indoor guards present tightly choreographed routines designed to excite audiences with saber tosses, spinning rifles and the flashy pageantry of vibrantly colored, twirling flags. The routines are thrilling to spectators, while showing the athleticism and precision drill capability of the performers.

Al Shabibi says many of this weekend's guards will compete at the WGI World Championship in Dayton, Ohio, next month. They will take the judges' feedback from this weekend to fine-tune their performances.

Each winter guard has a maximum of 10 minutes to take the floor, present its routine, gather up its floor mat and props, and exit. Each unit performs to its choice of music played over the sound system, says Al Shabibi. A guard may have as many as 30 or as few as five members on the floor together.

Preliminary rounds will be held 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, with finals starting at 9 a.m. Sunday, says Al Shabibi. The registered winter guards hail from as far south as New Orleans and as far north as Illinois and Indiana. Closest competitors are from Knoxville, Nashville and the Atlanta area.

Aaron Jenkins of the WGI office says the organization expects approximately 2,000 performers, staff and spectators at this weekend's event.

Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfree or 423-757-6284.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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