by Steve Vickers, DCW publisher
This article was originally published in the June 2009 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 38, Number 3).
I first met Mike Pease only last summer, but I’ve been familiar with his volunteer work for a number of years. He’s a resident of Michigan City, IN, and has been running shows there for a long time . . . at Ames Field on the same “sacred” ground where an event has been held dating back to the 1960s.
Having marched in the old Ames Field back in 1969, I have wonderful memories of that night. It was on that tour when the Santa Clara Vanguard burst onto the scene. That particular night was the infamous incident when the Spectacle City Mariners from Greendale, WI, set the corner of the field on fire with fireworks (that’s why pyrotechnics aren’t allowed in shows anymore) and the talented VIPS from Washington, D.C., caught the attention of Midwest fans. I was a member of the Sky Ryders that night.
Mike has run many shows for The Cavaliers in Michigan City and, in fact, still does (the show is July 5). His hometown is also a stop-off point for many corps as they pass through the area because of its location just east of Chicago, at the lower end of Lake Michigan.
Last year, he took on the substantial job of providing the location for DCI’s Open Class prelims, hosting 23 corps in the one-day competition before corps moved three hours south to Bloomington.
He’s an excellent promoter, drawing in big crowds for DCI top-12 line-ups, as well as the entertaining presentations by DCI’s younger and smaller units. The prelims will return to Michigan City on Tuesday, August 4.
If you’ve never been fortunate enough to visit Ames Field, how about leaving for DCI a few days early and check out the DCI Open Class prelims this year at a great stadium and a great show run by Mike Pease?
Steve Vickers: Mike, I had a great time in Michigan City last summer. It was a kick revisiting the site of that 1969 show I remember so well. Tell me how you got involved in the drum corps activity.
Mike Pease: I started in 1969 with the Maple City Cadets from LaPorte, IN. I marched through 1971 and I played a baritone bugle. I’ve been following the activity since. This is my 40th year.
SV: How many years have you been running shows at Ames Field?
MP: My first year doing a show was 1998. I got a call from the Michigan City “Summer Festival” Committee and The Cavaliers asking for help after I wrote a letter to the local newspaper about the Michigan City show.
SV: Any idea how many different corps you’ve hosted over the years?
MP: I’ve hosted most of the corps except maybe three or four of them. I host many of the same ones year after year.
SV: The show in Michigan City was one of the original stops on the DCI tour during their first season in 1972. Give me a brief overview of the legendary Ames Field before DCI began?
MP: The old stadium was built as a WPA project in the early 1930s as a baseball stadium. We had a minor league team here for years. They were called the White Caps. Many famous players got their start at Ames Field.
Eventually it became a multi-purpose venue for football, soccer and other sports.
The first drum corps show was held there in 1960. Bud Parker brought the first show to Michigan City. He was show chairman for 26 years and was instrumental in the formation of DCI and helped finance the “Combine” just prior to DCI’s start.
He was involved with DCI from the beginning and was invited to help with its start. A move to get Bud into the Hall of Fame failed several years ago. Many people don’t realize what he did and doesn’t get credit for. Without Bud, we may have never had DCI.
The new stadium opened on the same site in 1995 and the Michigan City drum corps show committee was consulted during the design process of the stadium. We’ve been packing them in ever since.
SV: Those early years involved the drum corps show being part of the “Summer Festival.” Is it still connected to that annual event?
MP: It is still part of the festival and many of our festival volunteers help make the show a success every year.
SV: How did you come to be running DCI’s Open Class prelims in Michigan City?
MP: In 2005 DCI asked if we’d like to get involved with a Division II and III focus show. We called that the “Great Lakes Open.” It went so well that in 2006 we had a two-day event and brought in 30 corps while they were on the way to Madison for DCI. It was a huge success.
We wanted to do the show again in 2007, but it didn’t fit with the tour going to Pasadena.
In April 2007, we met with Dan Acheson and some other DCI staff and they asked if we wanted to host a World Championship event to coincide with Indianapolis and do it for 10 years. I almost fell out of my chair. They had been watching our success and knew Michigan City could do a first-class job.
In July 2007, Dan Acheson came to Michigan City and made the announcement at The Cavaliers’ “Pageant of Drums” show.
SV: What kind of community support do you get for not only housing corps, but people turning out for your shows?
MP: The community has always loved drum corps. The school district and Michigan City businesses have always been supportive. Most of our fans are local people and they come to see the corps every year.
SV: I understand you often get requests for housing by touring corps as they come through the area? How many times do you host a corps outside of your regular shows?
MP: I host many corps every year. Some even just stop for a shower or to get driver’s some sleep and off they go. Some corps spend days at a time. It’s different every year.
I’ve provided as many as 80 nights of housing in a season. Some corps hold camps here. We store vehicles if needed, get buses repaired, you name it. We do it all at no cost to any corps. We know the cost of operating a corps is high and we are able to provide help and do it for free. All a corps has to do is call and we’ll get them in.
SV: For fans planning a trip to include the DCI prelims, what kinds of things can be on the agenda for sightseeing in the area?
MP: Most people come to Washington Park on the Lake Michigan shoreline. We have two miles of beautiful beaches, large sand dunes, a famous lighthouse, Chicago’s skyline is 35 miles across the lake, a unique zoo and observation tower on top of forested sand dunes.
The 15,000-acre Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is on the city’s west boundary. It features massive sand dunes, camping,mcactus, dozens of varieties of wild orchids. Mt. Baldy is one of the world’s largest “living sand dunes.”
SV: Are you anticipating an even bigger turnout for the shows this year — The Cavaliers’ contest as well as DCI Prelims?
MP: As usual we’re expecting The Cavaliers’ “Pageant of Drums” show on July 5 to be sold out. And we expect another large crowd on August 4 for the DCI Open Class Quarterfinals.
SV: Thanks, Mike, for spending some time with me discussing your “legendary” show site and shows.
MP: Thanks, Steve. I look forward to seeing you again in Michigan City. I hope to see all the fans come to Michigan City again on July 5 and August 4.