The La Crosse Blue stars are one of the top drum and bugle corps in the nation.
"There's a tremendous amount of dedication to be in this," said Blue Stars Executive Director Brad Furlano. "It's not for the faint at heart."
As a former member, Furlano knows exactly how hard this commitment can be.
"Just yesterday I watched many of the 2014 members out on the field struggling mightily. They're hurting and frustrated but they are persevering. And I've done this enough to know what the transformation will be. In 63 days it will be all about the hard work and achievement and the excellence. It's an amazing thing to see a young adult go through. It is remarkable. It is one of the greatest joys of my life to see young adults succeed."
The Blue Stars started back in 1964. At that time it was just a color guard. But when year two rolled around, the drums and brass were added and success followed almost immediately.
"They grew into one of the top corps in the country all through the 70's," Furlano said.
But it didn't last.
"In the early 80's, the corps experienced some financial difficulty and the Blue Stars did what's called folding so they were no more."
That could have been the end of the Blue Stars story. Fortunately while one group was folding - another was beginning to form. "The 1982 season which was the Blue Stars' final season they started the Blue Stars Cadets."
The cadets were geared towards younger musicians, ages 10 to 12. Musicians about the age of the Furlano boys: Brian, Brent, Brad, Bruce, and Brandon.
All five of the Furlano brothers marched in the Blue Stars. And all of them feel a sense of pride that they were able to help keep the corps going during its most vulnerable and unstable era. But there was always the hope of more -
of returning to its former glory.
"In the early 2000's myself and a number of other people decided that life as a small group was not a great place to try and live anymore," Brad said. "We need to make this bigger and better. Better organizationally, better on the field and in all aspects. In 2006 the Blue stars returned to world class competition."
"Still a lot of pride that I was able to help start that tradition up again," said Brent Furlano.
“To see them actually make it to World Class is something we would have dreamed to be at when I was marching,” Brandon said. “To see them grow, there’s a sense of pride."
"When you see them go on the field today as a world class corp they are still pushing the boundaries on the field and it's kind of neat because our family was part of that rebuilding process," Brian said. "When we are in the stands it all comes back. It brings you back to a time when we were there and did it. We're just proud of the kids that are still making it happen. It's pretty neat."
Brent adds, "I watch them in awe. The skill that they have today - it's just amazing and incredible. They work really hard to accomplish a lot of things."
"As I think back to Blue Stars and my time in it," says Bruce, "it ends up being less about the music and less about marching and less about the arts and more about the life skills I learned. Being a leader, how to interact with people, what it means to do a professional job. Long days and what it takes to perfect your craft and have set backs. Yes I don't play the trumpet anymore. But I remember the friends and the life lessons I've learned."
"The Blue Stars will always be a big part of who I am and who my family is, "Brad said.
"It's something that will never leave me," Brandon said.
Fifty years of entertaining, of dedication and family. A milestone certainly worth celebrating with a future as bright as the stars.
The Blue Stars will host DCI La Crosse on Saturday, July 12 at Veterans Memorial Stadium at UW-La Crosse. For more information, visit BlueStars.org.