The Mighty St. Joes March on Wellsboro
All over the country, musty uniforms hang in the backs of closets. Suspended with them are a thousand memories of summer days spent marching Main Streets, with the stirring echoes of patriotic music ringing out. The Mighty St. Joe’s Drum and Bugle Corps offers alumni of corps throughout western New York and parts of Pennsylvania a chance to relive those memories—and make new ones.
“We are an all ages, all talent-levels group,” says Corps Director Bob Wielgosz. Their mission statement reads “Dedicated to keeping the good times alive in the drum corps world,” and, more than two dozen times a year, the group of seventy strong does just that, visiting communities for parades, concerts, and a mutual love affair with Americana. With members ranging from fourteen to eighty years old, the corps encourages young musicians to stick with it and the older ones to pick up their instrument again.
Bob says the annual Pennsylvania Laurel Festival parade in Wellsboro is one of the group’s favorite happenings.
“We love that parade, especially the wind-up as you come down Nichols Street,” Bob laughs. “People actually get in front of us with signs asking for a particular song. The lawns are crowded with folks. They throw money to the band members. It’s crazy!”
Their repertoire is based largely on the music of the ’60s and ’70s, with a healthy dose of classic patriotic songs. “Grand Old Flag,” “Georgia On My Mind,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “In the Mood” are some of the well-known tunes that keep the Mighty St. Joe’s playing loud and stepping proud.
“That’s the other nice thing about the Laurel Parade. Everybody stands and salutes our honor guard. We don’t always see that,” Bob says. The group includes both honor guard and flag-carrying color guard.
While the music brought them together, it’s the relationships they build that has kept them together throughout the group’s twenty-eight-year history. Bob “Sully” Sullivan was a part of the junior corps group who decided there was no reason the band couldn’t go on after the time in school ended. The Mighty St. Joe’s don’t compete during their appearances—in other words, they are not judged like some of the bands are. But you can hear the smile in Bob Wielgosz’s voice when he mentions that they often win whatever “People’s Choice” trophy might be in play.
Recruitment is a constant activity to keep the group marching strong. The Mighty St. Joe’s are based near Rochester and are always on the lookout for someone who remembers how to keep the hat straight, keep in step, and keep up the tradition of great drum and bugle corps. Visit them at mightystjoes.org, and see them the third Saturday in June here in Wellsboro.