On Saturday, Feb. 18, SRU Winter Guard will travel to Massachusetts to compete in the 2017 Salem Regional competition.
“Winter guard is the sport for the arts, and it’s a program that welcomes anyone,” junior public health major and vice president of SRU Winter Guard Andrea Grada said. “Teams spin flags, rifles and sabers, and many shows feature a lot of dance as well.”
Grada has been part of the winter guard at SRU for three years and she said it’s been the highlight of her college career thanks to the friends she has made and the leadership she discovered she had in her. While she represents the guard as the vice president, she also leads the group as one of the three captains. The other two captains are junior computing – information technology major Jessica McClain and senior recreational therapy major Emily Fitzgerald.
Typically, SRU Winter Guard performs and competes in and around the Pittsburgh area as part of Three Rivers Winter Ensemble Association (TRWEA), but this season, the group is looking to expand the program by traveling to other circuits.
“To see another circuit and their guards perform makes your team want to push harder and harder,” Grada said of the benefits of competing outside TRWEA. “We also aim to spread the Slippery Rock name and to show that college guards are possible.”
Grada said she is excited for both regional competitions SRU Winter Guard will be attending in Salem and in Pittsburgh, as well as seeing how much the team grows leading up to championships.
Freshman biology major and member of the winter guard Jessica Pendergraft said she is also excited to see how the guard grows as a family and as people.
“I’m excited to be able to look back at videos from the beginning of the season and see how far we’ve come,” Pendergraft said.
This season is Pendergraft’s first season ever performing as part of a winter guard, which is something brand new and challenging for her because she said she used to dance and wanted to get back into that, but she had never touched a flag before in her life. Pendergraft said the guard and staff are all very supportive and the veterans try to make sure everyone feels confident in what they’re doing.
Both Grada and Pendergraft agree that this season’s show, “Totem,” is intense; Grada said that it’s one of the most challenging shows she’s ever done.
However, both women believe the challenge is good for them and for the winter guard as a whole because the satisfaction felt after performing a part well together as a group is worth it.
“This season’s show is very exciting and different from the past years; it’s also quite challenging, but I think that everyone is doing a wonderful job,” Pendergraft said. “There’s lots of hard work put in, but the satisfaction you feel after you catch a toss, especially a challenging one, makes it all worth it.”
Most winter guards have a floor crew along with the staff who set up whatever props the guard uses, as well as the actual floor itself, which is usually a large painted or printed tarp. This season, the guard is using a bright blue floor and a 10-foot-tall makeshift totem pole, which is held up by members of the floor crew during the show.
Sophomore theatre technology and design major Steven MacDonald is the head of SRU Winter Guard’s floor crew and this is his second year being part of the floor crew. MacDonald said he got started because he enjoys behind-the-scenes work, which is also why he chose his major.
MacDonald also said he’s looking forward to the competitions and working more with the floor crew because many of them are volunteering their time and they all work hard.
“The most challenging part of being the head of floor crew is being in charge of 21 people,” MacDonald said. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome to have that many students join me and help me with being on the crew, but it is really hard combining all those schedules to have everyone in one place. Communication between everyone can also be hard, but mostly everyone has been committed and I try to work with everyone the best that I can.”
SRU Winter Guard will be selling flowers and baked goods in honor of Valentine’s Day on Feb. 9, 10, and 13 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. each day in Bailey Library, and their first on-campus performance is Thursday, Feb. 16 at 12:30 p.m. in Morrow Field House.