To Russia with Love
Twenty-five years ago this month, the New Richmond High School Marching Tigers set off on their historic Euro/Russian-it trip across Europe and into Russia from June 19-July 2, 1990.
“The whole trip was a pretty big deal and it stayed a big deal for quite a while,” said band booster and trip leader Wally Lind. “Lots of articles were published in a lot of American and Russian magazines. A lot of publications followed us for quite a few years.”
Lind and former high school band director Rich Gregerson recently announced that they would be organizing the 25-year reunion of the Euro/Russian-it trip for band members, their families, parents and chaperones at the New Richmond Knights of Columbus Hall on Saturday, June 27, starting at 2 p.m.
“We had reunions at 10 and 20 years, but we figured that this might be the last chance for a lot of the chaperones from the trip to get back together with a lot of us getting up there in age and all of the kids from the trip being grown adults with their own families now,” Lind said. “We wanted to give it one last hurrah.”
The wheels were set in motion for the trip in 1987 when the NRHS Marching Tigers performed at a festival in Florida. The group not only won the festival championship, but it had scored higher than any other group at the festival, including choirs, jazz bands and orchestras. For its high score, the band won an international gold medal, which opened the door for the group to make the trip across the globe.
“Before we knew it, the Russian government started to show interest in bringing us over to the Soviet Union to perform,” Lind said. “In 1988, Rich made a trip over to Russia to meet with these folks and when he came back he said it looked like it would be official that we would be the first high school marching band ever to be invited and perform in Russia.”
Shortly after Gregerson returned, the band got the official news from the government’s Sports Bureau that it was invited to perform in Russia. The bureau sent an official invite in the summer of 1989, which included a large folk group called LADA to visit New Richmond and an engraved invitation. The community had a big celebration to welcome LADA, who also toured around the region over the next few weeks.
“The whole thing started out quite slow that summer with the planning of the trip,” Lind said. “The whole trip cost over $400,000, which is a very large sum of money back in 1990. We started to set the itinerary and then also started fundraising for the trip. Fundraising for the trip became a big deal in the area with everyone in the area pitching in to help out.”
In June of 1990, the Marching Tigers took off for Europe, making stops in Germany, Austria and Switzerland where they performed one or more times a day in a variety of venues. Once the short trip across Europe came to an end, the group flew to Moscow. A total of 115 students, 35 chaperones and six auxiliary members, including New Richmond News reporter Dave Newman, went on the trip.
“When we got to Moscow we did all kinds of historic things,” Lind said. “And of course, they didn’t know what to call us, so they have billboards that said ‘Walking Orchestra,’ because that was the closest translation since they didn’t have the concept of marching band over there.”
While in Russia, the band performed in many historic and iconic venues and locations, including the Moscow Circus, which marked the first time a non-circus act ever performed at the venue in the history of the circus. The group also performed in Red Square and Gorky Park.
“We performed in so many amazing places while we were in Russia,” Lind said. “It was just a huge historic trip.”
The Marching Tigers returned to New Richmond on July 2 to a welcome from much of the community as well as Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who helicoptered in for the big celebration.
The reunion will be held for all participants of the Euro/Russian-it trip, including band members, their families, parents and chaperones, at the New Richmond Knights of Columbus Hall on Saturday, June 27, starting at 2 p.m. A social time will be held 2-4 p.m., a picnic dinner 4-5 p.m., a Euro/Russian-it video will be shown 5-6 p.m. and the hall will be open for more social time following the video.
“We aren’t going to be doing anything big and fancy, but it will be good to get everyone together again,” Lind said. “Traditionally, whenever the band performed or traveled, the typical food they got was hotdogs, chips and lemonade. So that is what we are going to serve this year.”
Attendees are asked to bring stories, pictures and souvenirs from the trip to share with the rest of the group.
“What was unique about this band was that they memorized 20 to 25 songs for their performances,” Lind said. “When they did a halftime show, they would have a huge American flag, cannons and everything else we hauled from here all the way over there. And when we performed at the circus or the ballet or an impromptu concerts, we adapted to the situation.”
For more information about the reunion, contact Wally Lind, 715-246-5095 or email@example.com.