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The Circuit Of Champions

About the same time the Beatles were first conquering America, the California Color Guard Circuit (C.C.G.C.) was being formed. And much like the Beatles, We’ve been going in and out of style but we guarantee to raise a smile.

60's and Tom Wuetrich


The California Color Guard Circuit was established in January of 1964 by Tom Wuetrich. The objective of forming this color guard association was "to promote color guard contests, thereby perpetuating pageantry and effectiveness of the member units".

Tom served as first president over the  C.C.G.C.’s six charter units; Sacramento Capitolaires, Stockton Police Cadets, Raleys Raiders, Richmond Hawks, Praetorians and the Rhythmettes. That first year there were three contests held. Tom will go on to not only be Circuit Commander but a local and national respect judge for color guard, marching band and drum corps.

Winter Color Guard was much different back then. Units were mostly from drum and bugle corps, drum and bell corps or parade drill teams. The idea of having an independent organization strictly as a winter guard was virtually unknown.

Units were required to perform in a 50’ x 70’ rectangle. There was no recorded music, all tempos and timing were set by vocal commands. The units were required to fulfill required maneuvers as part of their show: Presentation of Colors, Pass in Review, Manuel of Arms, and Posting & Retrieval of Colors. The emphasis was on precision and following proper American Flag etiquette. The scoring system was based on subtracting points for errors made in marching & maneuvering, equipment handling and timing & penalties. General Effect had very little influence on the score and a competition could be won or lost on penalties. There were boundary penalties for crossing any of the four sides of the performance rectangle. If you dropped a piece of equipment, it was a one-tenth penalty but if you picked it up, another full point was added to the penalty.

Uniforms were very military in style and usually were the same uniforms worn in Drum & Bugle or Drum and Bell competitions in the summer months. As the competitions were held on bare gym floors, the majorette boots that most units wore had to have the bottoms taped with the newly invented duct tape.

By the late 1960s membership had grown and included groups such as; San Leandro Royalaires, Stockton Caballeros, Hayward Castillians, Antioch Chaparrals, Santa Clara Sparks, Pinole Princemen, The Troubadours of Antioch, Courtierian of Walnut Creek, California Kingsmen of South San Francisco, San Jose Rebels, Anaheim Kingsmen, and the Concord Blue Devils.

By the end of the decade classifications expanded to include “Open” class and “A” class. The 1969 C.C.G.C. roster included; The Kings Guard of South San Francisco, Concord Shamrocks, Santa Rose Champions, Concord Tri-Fillians, Knight Raiders (later to become the San Jose Raiders), Lakewood Ambassadors, Crusaders, Santa Clara Vanguard, Stockton Commodores (one of the first all male guards on the west coast), Watsonville Wildcats (First high school unit), San Diego Albacore (later the Golden Statesmen) and Sacramento Mandarins.

THE 1970'S

Groups began to travel more in the early 1970s as Southern California hosted their first contest in 1970, then two more in 1971. The first Southern California Circuit was formed in the fall of 1972, with their first contests being held in 1973, Competitions were also being held in the Pacific Northwest with the Opt-A-Rama show held in Salem, Oregon.

The judge community was changing also as the All-American Association of Contest Judges was replaced by the Pacific Coast Judges Association. 

In 1971 pageantry changed forever with the establishment of Drum Corps International (DCI). The organization abandoned the rules and scoring sheets of the VFW and American Legion.

Locally the C.C.G.C. roster grew with several scholastic groups. The C.C.G.C. roster in the early 1970s included; Sacramento Corinthians, Santa Clara Vanguard, Peterson High School, Live Oak High School, James Lick High School, South San Francisco Conquuistadors, Lynwood Diplomats, Americanettes (So. California), Petaluma PAL, Redwood City Guardsmen and Watsonville Band.

By 1975 the C.C.G.C. was ready for bigger shows and greater competitions. This lead to the formation of the first Western States Color Guard Championships by Linda Chambers (Shamrocks), Marilyn Modesit (Conquistadors) and Shirlee Whitcomb. The Marksmen from Seattle caused quite a stir by beating the Troopers from Casper, Wyoming in prelims, using recorded music for part of their show. The Troopers came back the next day to win the Championship. The next year the contest became the Western Regional Championships.

The first east coast color guard came west as George Zingali’s St. Anthony Imperials of Revere, Mass came to compete against the Santa Clara Vanguard under the instruction of Stanley Knaub. Both Instructors will go on the change the face of color guard and become members of the WGI Hall of Fame. Santa Clara Vanguard won the Championship.


There is much dispute over which circuit first allowed recorded music to be used in color guard competitions but C.C.G.C. was certainly on the leading edge of this major rule change. By 1976 most units in the C.C.G.C. used recorded music in which to perform.

Some units had creative and professional quality music editing while others literally held a tape record up to the speakers of a record player as they changed records (No names to be mentioned here). Music was not only used for the actual performance but it was very common for guards to have exit music too as they still had to cross the final time line.

It was not uncommon for a C.C.G.C. contests to sponsor “individual competition” the afternoon of a show. These contests would offer the opportunity for individual guard members to compete in: solo flag, solo rifle, solo saber as well as small ensembles like duets, trio or quartets. These contests became so popular that skill divisions were established of beginner, intermediate and advanced.

Streamers on sabers and at both ends of a rifle were quite common in both individual competitions as well as guard shows. Another popular event during the 1970s was the performance of the instructor’s guard at circuit championships. Instructors from all the C.C.G.C. units would mix all the different show music and perform before retreat ceremonies.


In the spring of 1977, C.C.G.C. hosted a group of six people in San Francisco to discuss the formation of an organization to govern the color guard activity from coast to coast. At that meeting, attendees Don Angelica, Shirlee Whitcomb, Stanley Knaub, Bryan Johnston, Marie Czapinski, and Linda Chambers introduced the name Winter Guard International (WGI).

The first WGI championship was held in 1978 in Chicago with the South San Francisco Conquistadors becoming C.C.G.C.’s first WGI finalist.

As a wider range of different music styles were used, so was the range and creativity of costuming. More and more units began to move away from the military-style of marching and uniforms to a dance style of movement. Stanley Knaub was instrumental in this change with his award winning Seattle Imperials.

C.C.G.C. continued to grow in the late 1970s with the addition of: Santa Clara Drum Sparks, Epsilon, Redwood City Guardsmen, San Leandro Blue Angels, Milpitas Medieval Barons, San Jose Golddiggers, Independence High School, Imperial Barons, Modesto High, North Salinas High, Sunnyvale High (later the Royal Sabres), and San Jose Sailorettes.

Harry & Dee Ariza

Harry was the director and creative force behind the Sparks Color Guard, one of the powerhouses of the C.C.G.C. in the 1970s. He went on to become a C.C.G.C. and WGI judge. He served for many years as the judge's coordinator for the C.C.G.C..

Dee was elected to the C.C.G.C. Executive Board in 1978. During her time with C.C.G.C. she has held almost every office on the Executive Board. Later she will serve as the second WGI West Regional Director. Dee was (and is) instrumental in shaping the C.C.G.C. into nationally acclaimed circuit that it is.

THE 1980'S

In 1980 the C.C.G.C. returned to the WGI Olympics held in Chicago with both the Mandarins and the Royal Sabres becoming WGI Championship finalists. C.C.G.C.’s attend at the World Championships was sporadic in the early to mid 1980s with Santa Clara Vanguard “B” (Finalist), Sunnyvale Silver Illusion, and Santa Clara Drum Sparks making the trip to the WGI Olympics.

Wayne Wengert

Wayne Wengert, another member of the WGI hall of fame from the C.C.G.C., served as Circuit Commander in the early 1980s. Wayne single-handedly brought technology to the C.C.G.C. and the entire color guard activity. Wayne designed the first, and many consider the best, tabulation program. Also under Wayne’s leadership the circuit saw one of the largest growths in membership. He will go on to be the first WGI West Regional Director covering Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Hawaii. Wayne brought and officiated over many WGI regional competitions. During the time that WGI stopped West Regional competitions, he with Shirlee Whitcomb created the Western Dream Pageant in 1982.

He always had great sense of humor. With Wayne, it was always about the performers. Directors, instructors, boosters and audience members were important but the young people of the circuit were always #1 with him. We remember and honor him with The Wayne Wengert Memorial Scholarship.

Ron Nankervis followed as Circuit President, changing the title from Commander. Ron served several terms as president and brought a business approach to the circuit. Many years the circuit would end the season with a zero balance. Ron modernized the budget and made the C.C.G.C. financially stronger. He also updated and modernized the C.C.G.C. bylaws. Ron went on to be the Executive Director, CEO of WGI.

The membership list in the early 1980’s included: San Jose Alliance, Milpitas High, Los Banos Cameo, Emerald Cadets, Freelancers, Gilroy High Blues, San Jose Guys & Dolls, Half Moon Bay High, Lincoln High, Moreau High, Morrill Golden Tigers, San Leandro Red Knights, Sunnyvale Royal Sabres, Watsonville Shalamar, Sunnyvale Silver Illusion, Sacramento Spectra, Fresno California Dons, Spirit of Sunnyvale, South San Francisco Starlights, San Jose Stringers, Sparkers, San Jose Vinci Park, Modesto Valley Fever, Ventura and San Jose Tribulation.

The Color Guard activity continued to grow and many areas were establishing their own circuits such as: The Central Valley Color Guard Circuit in Modesto (1981), The San Joaquin Valley Color Guard and Percussion Review in Fresno (1984), and The Bay Area Scholastic Color Guard Circuit (1985).

By the mid 1980s many rule changes had occurred. Judges were now in the stands giving credit for excellence instead of subtracting points for errors. The American Flag was no longer required. Grounding equipment and even segments without equipment were allowed for dance or movement features. Still, all members were required to have equipment at the same time for three and a half minutes.

There were also many changes in classifications as the Open class became the World Class. There was also the addition of classes such as: Junior class, “B” class, Prep class, Novice class, as well as Scholastic classes.

Floors and Scenery

Performing on a vinyl floor or tarp is one of the biggest innovations in the world of color guard. As with adding music to a color guard show, there is much dispute over which guard was the first to use a floor tarp. Many believe it was The C.C.G.C.’s San Jose Raiders. Back then all boundaries were still invalid, so the floor could not cover any of the four boundary lines.

Scenery, flats and props were becoming more elaborate. Scaffolding and multi levels stages were being constructed in mere seconds on the gym floors. 

National Recognized

By the late 1980s C.C.G.C. was a regular participant at the WGI World Championships. Groups making the trip east included: Tribulation, Starlights, Pacific Expression (Saratoga High), San Jose Raiders, The Blue Devils, Lincoln High and Dublin High. The C.C.G.C. was beginning to be known as a national competitor with the San Jose Raiders becoming a WGI finalist in 1987, 1988 and 1989 in the Open class. The Blue Devils in 1988 became an “A” class finalist.

In 1988 Lincoln High School became the first WGI medalist on the west coast by taking the Gold Medal in the Scholastic “A” class. The following year Dublin High took the Bronze Medal in the Scholastic “A” class. This began an incredible streak of twenty straight years, and 25 out of 26 years, in which a WGI medal was earned by a C.C.G.C. member unit. The complete list of the C.C.G.C. medalist can be found in this program.

THE 1990'S

The 1990s firmly established the C.C.G.C. as “The Circuit of Champions”. Led by the design team of Jay Murphy and Scott Chandler, 9 straight Independent World Class Champions will be claimed by the C.C.G.C. The San Jose Raiders started the decade with 5 straight World Championships titles, along with a bronze medal from their Open guard. The Blue Devils followed with 4 straight World Championship titles of their own. James Logan color guard earned their first gold medals in 1998 and 1999, on their way to an unprecedented ten straight Scholastic World Championships. Ventura brought home a Bronze Medal at the World Championships in 1999.

Dance & Percussion

The C.C.G.C. added Dance and Percussion categories to its competition schedule. Almost instantly C.C.G.C. excelled in those areas too with a WGI Gold Medal in Dance in 1995, earned my James Logan and four medals in Percussion including Gold Medals by Clayton Valley High, Johansen High and the Freelancers.

Despite being a well established competitive art form in many parts of the country, the WGI Dance category didn’t last more than a few seasons.

Percussion continues to be a strong part of both WGI and the C.C.G.C. by offering divisions in both Independent and Scholastic competition. Percussion both in its marching form and concert class has several classifications based on skill and experience level. Long time instructor and adjudicator Dan Smith has served as Percussion Coordinator since being adapted by the C.C.G.C.

Additional percussion groups of the mid to late 1990s include: Amador Valley High School, Valley Christian, Milpitas, Independence, Live Oak, Logan, and Dublin High School.


Contest rules again changed dramatically as back and side boundary penalties were eliminated. The numbers of performers required to have equipment for required equipment time was reduced from all performers to only three. Performance times were adjusted so younger inexperienced guards could do shorter show while the world guards could perform longer.

By the mid 1990s the C.C.G.C. saw a huge growth especially in the Novice class and Regional “A” class with groups like: Blue Crew (Blue Devils), Venture Novice, Spectra Jr., Raiders Novice, Beyond Blue (Blue Devils), Sailorette Mini.  The Middle School Class also saw tremendous growth with middle school units from: Gilroy Middle, Harvest Park, Alvarado, Cesar Chavez, Westborough, Bernard White and Franklin Jr. High.

Other groups joining the C.C.G.C. in the 1990s include: Clayton Valley, Amador Valley, Mt. Diablo, Stille Nacht (also known as Regenesis), Oak Grove, First Works, Pacific Alliance, Dreamscape, Out of the Blue (Blue Devils), Homestead, and In Motion.

The 1990’s also saw the first web site for the C.C.G.C. for posting scores and information, one of the first circuits in the country to do so.

Sadly, in 1999 we lost long time Timing and Penalty judge Warren Tom.  Warren was a caring, dedicated person who gave many years of service to the C.C.G.C. With Warren it was always about the performers and not himself. Warren’s smile was the first thing countless young people saw as they enter the gym to perform. The California Color Guard Circuit established the Warren Tom Award that same year in memory of Warren. It is awarded each year to the person or persons who best demonstrate the same unselfish dedication and contributions to the California Color Guard Circuit.

THE 2000'S

National Success

The C.C.G.C.’s national success continued into the new decade (and new century) with James Logan earning 8 straight Scholastic World Championships in the 2000s to go with their gold medals from 1998 & 1999 (Ten total in a row). The only thing that seemed to be able to stop James Logan’s incredible streak was the opportunity to perform at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. James Logan returned to WGI in 2009 to earn a Silver Medal.

2003 was a historic year as both the San Jose Raiders and James Logan took the World Championships in the Independent and Scholastic Classes respectfully. This was a feat that has never been achieved by any other circuit before or since. The San Jose Raiders earned an additional Silver Medal in 2005.

Santa Clara Vanguard returned to the circuit after a nearly 30 year absence and immediately became a national contender being a WGI World class finalist in 2006, 2007, 2008 and taking the Gold Medal in 2009.

Other C.C.G.C. units earning medals in the 2000s were: Blue Devils Open (twice), In Motion (both in the “A” class & Open class), and Rhapsody Independent. Additionally C.C.G.C. members to earn WGI Finalist positions include: San Jose Raiders (4 times plus the two medals), Raiders Open, Mt Diablo (twice), In Motion (twice plus 2 medals), Dublin High School (twice,“A” class then Open class).

Percussion continued to grow in the 2000s with the addition of groups like: Springstowne, Granite Bay, Hogan, Santa Teresa, Stagg, Monta Vista, Fairfield, Horner, and Ida Price.

Adding to the roster for color guards included: Mountain View, Lynbrook, Cygnus, Glenbrook, Monta Vista, Fairfield, Ida Price, Leland, Moreau, Benicia Middle, Granada, First Flight, New Dimensions, and Jefferson


Rules for scholastic units changed to allow schools in the same district to combine and share resources. C.C.G.C. saw this first take place with middle school groups like New Haven, Dublin, Pleasanton Unified and Emerald Guard (Morgan Hill District).

The numbers of performers required to have equipment for required equipment time was reduced again in the 2000s from three performers to only one. This gave many more opportunities to incorporate dance and movement features into the shows.

By the early 2000s most units had abandoned cassette tapes for CDs. As the decade came to an end most had moved on to MP3 files.

C.C.G.C. was also attracting color guards and percussion units from as far away as Nevada with groups like: Summit, Carson High School and McQueen High School. Units from neighboring circuits were willing to travel a little further to be part of the circuit.

THE 2010'S

The future looks bright as the C.C.G.C. started this decade with 12 WGI finalists including 9 medalists. 2011 saw Santa Clara Vanguard World Guard and Percussion Ensemble both take the WGI Gold Medal while the James Logan Color Guard and Concert Percussion both took home WGI Silver Medals.

More important than awards, the C.C.G.C. has many friends and fans. We have received dozens of congratulation emails and well wishes from all around the country.  We have launched a face book page with hundreds of views and friends. And despite our efforts, C.C.G.C. units have had thousands of hits on You Tube.

The California Color Guard Circuit has grown from the six charter units to a circuit of 82 Color Guard and Percussion Units. The C.C.G.C. has been the circuit of 29 World Champions, 49 WGI medalists and 118 WGI finalists.

With all the awards, our greatest accomplishment is the experiences and memories we have provided and shared for tens of thousands of young people. We have become a family tradition as we have second and even third generation C.C.G.C. performers.

Yes, the future looks bright.