By Adam Adkins
Being a color guard dad is a year-round job.
Even more-so if you’re like Brett Woeste. Brett is effectively in charge of building the props for Bellbrook HS World Guard, a process that begins months before the kids even take the floor for the first rehearsal. For the guard’s 2019 show, “The Rainbow Bridge,” that meant building a bridge. Yep—a bridge.
From Design, to the Floor
Not a small one, either. No: this was to be front and center in the run, setting the stage for the deeply emotional show.
Don’t forget about the practical side of the equation, either. The bridge had to be strong enough to support the weight of a young performer, but nimble enough to maneuver the tight hallways and narrow crannies of a small arena. Sound like fun? For Brett, it is.
“We knew about the bridge since last summer ,” Brett said, adding that that’s a decent amount of time to handle such a project. The process begins with a detailed design on paper that he shares with Sheldon Apo, Director of Bellbrook HS World Guard. The two discuss it further and make any tweaks, perhaps adding some size here or changing a shape there—usually to accommodate any changes in the show. Ultimately, the prop is there to serve the performance.
“He wants it done right,” Brett said of Sheldon with a smile. “And he knows I’ll get it done.”
Once the overall design was in place, Brett had to make sure the bridge’s dimensions could navigate the hallways of a high school. So, he took a piece of tarp and cut it to the precise measurements and painstakingly walked it through each doorway he could find at Bellbrook High School. He had to be sure then—otherwise, finding out on show day that your prop can’t navigate the turns makes for a bad, bad time.
Once the prop passed the “doorway test” it was time to order materials, keeping in mind both budget and something almost as critical: weight; the bridge had to be sturdy and reliable, but also light enough that the team could move it around. It was quite a balance to strike, Brett said.
Once materials arrived, the fun could start. Brett rounded up a bunch of other guard dads for what he calls Prop Builds, where he breaks his helpers into teams and they start putting it all together. “We got together about two or three times a week,” Brett said. “And it was done in about three.” All told, Brett said nearly 20 parents helped put it together.
Showing it to the World
“The kids were blown away by how big the bridge was,” Brett said. The initial review was positive, but not without critique—namely, that the bridge was a bit too steep to climb. This meant nearly a full tear-down of the prop and a rapid re-design.
It wouldn’t be the only tweak to come.
“Cosmetic issues have to be dealt with too,” Brett said. This means fixing bits of paint that get chipped off or, as happened at a show early in the season, fixing the railing that was knocked off in the scramble after a performance. That required a near all-nighter to fix it in time for a next-day performance.
“It’s not necessarily about the way [the parents] perform,” Brett said. “It’s how the kids perform. We never want to do anything to cause a penalty or harm the kids.”
It’s not a small amount of work doing all this. Brett described it as nearly a second full-time job, but the reward is in seeing the kids succeed and witnessing audiences react with amazement at the bridge. “I have some of the best parents around,” Sheldon said in specific regard to each show’s prop process. “They know they’re here to help the performance.”
About the Author
Adam Adkins is a freelance writer and editor in the Dayton, OH, region. You can read more from him at www.AdkinsonSports.com.