The Boyertown Alumni Marching Unit … its humble beginnings to today
Ever since its official formation in 1976, the all-volunteer, family-oriented Boyertown Alumni Marching Unit has proudly served the community while its members have had the opportunity to continue the musical activities that they love … from its first Annual Spring Concert in 1977 to this year’s 41st, from its first parade as part of the nation’s Bicentennial Celebration to major parades throughout the northeast and beyond, and from its first field show at the 1976 Boyertown Cavalcade of Bands to a 2014 guest performance at the 55th Boyertown Cavalcade.
Along the way, the Unit has survived and thrived thanks to the support of its patrons and the community, Boyertown Area School District band directors Arlen Saylor and Donald Kuszyk, a core group of dedicated members, and many others too numerous to mention.
The Unit actually had its humble unofficial beginning 10 years before its first concert in the spring of 1966 when about 25 musicians – organized by future first Unit President Dennis Prutzman - surprised the Boyertown High School Marching Unit upon its return home from Florida, where it had become the first band ever to win both major awards at the Festival of States in St. Petersburg. Later that year, the group appeared in the Boyertown Centennial Parade, strolling down the street in street clothes and playing to an appreciative audience.
The band struggled to survive over the next 10 years, with its appearances limited to playing in the stands at the annual Thanksgiving Day high school football game. Then in 1976, businesses in the borough met to form chapters to march in the local Bicentennial Parade and member Dave Fridinger – then one of the owners of the Rathskellar Bar and later one of the Unit’s founders and board members – was urged to get a band together. For that parade, the bar was known as “the Rats Cellar” and the band performed as “the Minute Mice” while being led down the street by a member dressed as a rat.
At a party after the parade, members decided that they wanted to keep the group going and it was officially organized with a charter and by-laws, a board of directors, and about 25 band and 15 band front members. Its first performance as the Boyertown Alumni Marching Unit came at the Boyertown Cavalcade of Bands in the fall when it formed a big A on the field and played four songs and the first concert was presented at Boyertown Junior High West on April 9, 1977.
The Unit made its first road trip in 1994 to march in the country’s oldest July 4th Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island. Since then it has performed in the National Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C., the Main Street Parade in Disney World, eight Miss America Parades in Atlantic City, the Hershey Centennial Parade, July 4th parades in the Boston, Massachusetts area, the Midnight Independence Day Parade in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the Boys Scouts of America Centennial Celebration Parade in Washington, D.C.
The Unit also regularly performs in local patriotic and Halloween parades, has presented an annual Holiday Concert since 2004, and gives a scholarship to a Boyertown High School senior each year.
In 2010, the Unit received the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce’s James K. Boyer Quality of Life Award and in 2017 it received the Special Recognition Award at the Boyertown Citizen of the Year Gala.
Special concerts over the years have recognized the contributions of Arlen Saylor and Donald Kuszyk to the Boyertown School District music program, Vietnam and World War II veterans, and those who heroically risked and gave their lives on September 11, 2001. In 2013, the Unit honored Dennis Frey, its first Band Captain and inspiration and driving force throughout its history and in 2014 paid tribute to the Pottstown Band.
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