Crystal Lake's award-winning Heraldry Guard marching band to reunite (with video)

CRYSTAL LAKE – Thor Laisy can still hear the regal sounds of the herald trumpets and see the crisp formations of the clap-cad musicians unfold on a football field.

Thirty years later, the memories of the nationally acclaimed Crystal Lake Heraldry Guard remain strong for many associated with the group, which is why Laisy is hoping to reunite the band for one night to celebrate its history and accomplishments.

"I don't know that you could ever replicate what they did again," Laisy said of the band's run from 1978 to 1982 that included finishing as one of the top-10 marching bands in the nation. "It was such a talented group, and it had the full support of the community. It was synergistic."

Before the band became a national, award-winning group, it started as an idea from Crystal Lake Central High School music director Bill Laskey who wanted to field a competitive marching band. Laskey started a competitive marching band at Central High School in 1974 known as the Marching Tigers that achieved some success.

But when Crystal Lake South High School opened in 1978, Laskey was able to bring together students from both schools and create the Crystal Lake Heraldry Guard, which focused all its efforts on summer competitions.

The group had an ambitious schedule, Laisy said, as it would fit in 15 competitions from June to mid-July, competing in regional and national events in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Florida.

One of its crowning achievements that led in part to its top-10 national ranking came in July 1979 when the Heraldry Guard won the Governor's Trophy at the Cherry Land Festival in Traverse City, Michigan. 

The Heraldry Guard quickly became known for its signature entrance featuring eight herald trumpeters that would form two lines for the rest of the band to walk through while the trumpeters played the famous Olympic Fanfare and Theme.

"It was truly an impressive maneuver," Laisy said. "I don't know how anyone could watch it and not get excited."

The band grew so much in the late '70s that a secondary group known as the Squires was formed because not everyone could fit on the field for the formations. People in the Squires would be added to the Heraldry Guard as members left.

At one time, Laskey had 22 paid instructors helping to build the show. 

Kurt Begalka, administrator for the McHenry County Historical Society, was an alto saxophone player for the Marching Tigers, graduating in 1977 right before the pinnacle years of the group.

Begalka said there was a strong music culture in Crystal Lake that led to the success as well as a lot of talented musicians.

"When I was a senior they were freshmen or sophomores ... so I was very excited to see them do well," Begalka said of the Heraldry Guard. "It was a lot of fun, and there was a lot of camaraderie. It was like a family."

The success of the group would not have been possible without the support of the community, Laisy said, noting local businesses and fundraising efforts from members raised nearly $100,000 each year for the extensive travel.

The Crystal Lake Plaza merchants even donated the eight herald trumpets that became a signature piece of the group.

Laisy said he has worked with former boosters and members to put together the Oct. 19 reunion event at The Pointe Outreach Center in Crystal Lake.

The event, at 5650 Northwest Highway, will feature the video of the award-winning performance in Traverse City, Michigan, in July 1979. There also will be a short, 15-minute video on the history of the group that will play on loop during the event, Laisy said.

The reunion begins at 3 p.m. and will include refreshments.

All former members of the Heraldry Guard or Marching Tigers and boosters and supporters are welcome to come.

For information, contact Laisy at 815-455-3555 or at vikingthor29@gmail.com.

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