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A Salute To Winter Guard
by Heather Milo
Acorn Staff Writer

Lisa Adams/T.O. Acorn Color Guard Instructor Becky Fleishman gives 9-year-old, Megan Bennett some tips on flag twirling.

Saber rattling is not just a military tradition.

The Allusion Winter Guard held auditions recently at the Thousand Oaks Community Center and welcomed new members to the Allusion Winter Guard Cadets. Allusion Winter Guard is similar to a color guard team, which performs at parades and events with flags, wooden "rifles" and sabers. But unlike color guard, the Winter Guard performs its act mainly on basketball courts.

Older members range from 14-22 years of age, but the new Allusion Winter Guard Cadets can be 8-14.

According to founder and guard manager Harold Arsenault, applicants to the Winter Guard needn’t have a great deal of coordination upon starting out. In fact, just about anybody who applies is probably going to get in, Arsenault said. The audition is just to prepare students for the reality of high school auditions.

"So by then, they’ll have it all under control," said Arsenault.

There is, however, much dance involved in the performances.

The Allusion Winter Guard recently completed a highly successful second year. The group brought home a bronze medal for the Southern California Championships and also attended its first World Championships.

Arsenault is a sixth year "guard dad." He was a member of the Thousand Oaks High School Band and Color Guard Boosters for four years. He is completing his second year as guard manager.

Allusion began as part of a class taught by Arsenault and his associates through the Conejo Valley Recreation and Park District. From there, a team formed.

Allusion volunteers Joe Paul, Matt Mize and Tim Wyckoff are among those who donate their time and expertise to the training.

"We’re all like kids. We have fun," said Arsenault. New classes are still available. The first one of the school year is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19 at the CRPD Community Center on Hendrix St.

For information, contact Arsenault at 805-494-8500, or email Alos visit

Even though the initial auditions are over, there are still opportunities to get involved, the organizers say.

Auditions for the older group will be held for the 2004 Allusion Winter Guard will be held on Sunday, Aug. 31, 2003 at the Thousand Oaks Community Center, 2525 Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks. Registration is at 8:30 a.m., and auditions begin at 9 a.m. A registration fee is required, which includes lunch and snacks.

The organization was founded in l977 to accomodate the growing interst in winter color guard activity. Efforts resulted in an international organization with a network of regional contests in the U.S., Canada and Europe, plus an annual International Championship in April.

According to Winter Guard International, winter guard programs can be found in the United States, Canada, Holland, Japan, England, Korea, Germany, Ireland and South Africa.

Scott Ruiz, 21, works out with a flag during practice.

College-level students join new color guard

By Julia Rogers, Correspondent

For four years, Heather Arsenault,18, was a member of the color guard at Thousand Oaks High School. When she graduated in June, she wanted to continue working with a drill team, but the closest one she found was in San Diego.
Because she is attending Moorpark College, she did not look forward to several weekly trips south. As she lamented her predicament at a family dinner one night, Arsenault's father came up with a possible solution.

"I just thought that if Heather wanted to continue to be on a team, then other kids might feel the same," Harold Arsenault said. "If Ventura County didn't have one, I figured, why not start one?"

He went to work, researching other color guards, looking at equipment and making a list of what was needed.

"I found out the biggest startup expense would be a gym to rehearse in," he said. "I started writing letters to everybody. People were very helpful, especially Assemblyman Tony Strickland. He started his own letter-writing campaign and made phone calls for me. The parks and recreation board members were great, too. They found a place for us."

That's how the Allusion Winter Guard was born. Only a few months old, and still admittedly in its infancy, the Ventura color guard already has a team of up to a dozen people and is getting ready for regional -- and then world -- competitions.

Although there can be as many as 20 people on the team, Ron Nankervis, chief executive officer of the Winter Guard International association based in Colorado, said size isn't an important factor.

"A few years ago we had a California team that only had eight members and they were very competitive," he said. "They won quite a few awards. It's not the amount of people, it's the time and devotion they put into the sport."

Time and devotion are not a challenge for the Arsenaults. Heather, an only child, puts in five hours of practice every Saturday afternoon right beside her father, the team manager. Mary Arsenault, mother and wife, was enlisted to help with maintaining the flags and uniforms and to do whatever she could to help, her husband said.

"I'm proud to manage this team because we've got a great bunch of kids," Harold Arsenault said. "They show up for practice and they don't complain at all. We have a couple of events coming up and the whole team is willing to work the booths for them. And my wife is just great about helping. She'll do whatever is needed."

The roots of color guard are deeply embedded in world history. Colorful flags and pennants have almost always been evident in pageants and have long surrounded royalty. When national flags came into play, the guard weapons were added to the mix and that evolution brought on today's color guard competition.

Men and women, ages 22 and younger, use music, dance, color and athletic skill in eight-minute presentations that can range from simple dance to interpretive theater. Teams travel around the country and into Canada. Across the globe, Japan, Germany, Ireland, Holland and England have color guard groups for young people.

"Our team uses flags, rifles and sabers," Heather Arsenault said. "It's up to the team what we want to do. We choose our music and begin to work on the routine from there. Once we start competing, we should have a good chance of placing."

Allusion is currently accepting new members. They practice at the Thousand Oaks Community Center every Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m.

For information, call 494-8500 or visit the Web site at

October 23, 2001