That’s a Big Baton Twirler!

WGRD Parade
Rick, Darla and Scott in a Parade for WGRD

Working in radio over the years, I have been in my share of parades. Holiday parades in the summer and Thanksgiving/Christmas parades in the winter. And one thing you saw in just about every parade –besides marching bands and floats — we baton twirlers.

For many years you would see these group of youngsters walking in the parades…regardless of the weather. Sun, rain, snow, sleet or ice…they were there to entertain by tossing that silver bar into the air and (hopefully) catching it. Most of those kids when through an organization called the “Bonnie Blue Bells”. Bonnie Hood founded the organization over 60 years ago. (Hood died in 2007.)

Bonnie Blue Bells was one of the last local baton-twirling classes. I think they stopped offering classes several years ago. I’m not sure if anyone offers these type of classes anymore in the Grand Rapids area (I couldn’t find anything when I did a web search).

I’ve often wondered what happens to “young” baton twirlers as they grow older. Aside from being a majorette in a high school band, or maybe using baton twirling as your “talent” in a beauty pageant…do you retire your baton or keep practicing your art?

Well apparently the answer — at least in Pittsburgh, PA — is you find a bigger costume and you keep performing! Apparently “little” baton twirlers become “big” baton twirlers.

I’m at a loss for words to describe this video, so just watch it for yourself! Stick around for the second half of the video, when the song “Do You Love Me?” (by The Contours) starts!!

 

So, what talents do you have from your childhood that you still practice? I tried magic and ventriloquism once. All I managed to do was make the dummy disappear! (Well not the biggest dummy — I’m still here!) How many still play their musical instruments? Or perhaps still do dance or tap dancing?

Leave me a reply below and let’s chat!

 

Baton Twirler Photo: YouTube

My goal is to keep you informed and/or entertained on a regular basis. Maybe you'll learn something new, or just get that much needed laugh. My topics will include a wide range of subjects....from what's going on in the world, to places I've been, things I've seen, or even just a fun video that I've found online. Check back often to see what I've posted.

7 Comments

  1. Myssi
    April 8, 2018 - 9:47 pm

    I was a Bonnie blue bell twirler in Grand Rapids!!! I was actually on the Bozo show with a group. It must have been in the mid 70s. I twirled to Cherokee People by Cher 😂 I was a bartender for years now an RN. but I can still twirl a badass baton!

    Reply
  2. Roger A. Hofstra
    May 19, 2018 - 11:25 am

    Does anyone remember the Bonnie Blue Bells Teacher, Franklin (Franco) Sauls? He was a BBB teacher in the ’70s, and a friend of mine. I miss him. You can e-mail me.

    Reply
  3. Regenia Millbrooks-Beeks
    September 6, 2018 - 11:58 am

    Hi everyone…My name is Regenia Millbrooks and I do believe I was the first African American Bonnie Blue Bell in Grand Rapids Michigan. I believe I must have been about 6 or 7 years old back in 1968. I marched in a parade and was a the forefront. My mother still has a picture of me.

    Reply
  4. Hdueje
    March 14, 2019 - 5:38 pm

    There’s actually a new baton place called athletic sensations.

    Reply
  5. lloyd miller
    July 21, 2019 - 9:21 pm

    my daughter was a twirler in my wifes baton group in bellevue mich the american star twirlers, we also had a mens group called the twinkes who twirled baton . we had a friendly competion with the bonnie blue bells . our one daughter took lessions in grandrapids we also had teachers from bonnie hoods group come and teach at a baton camp that we held . I was suprised when i saw the name bonnie hood come up in ref to an organzation competition for cheerleading in orlando some of the girls my wife had taught and bonnie had supplied had daughters at this competition . good clean fun

    Reply
  6. lloyd miller
    July 21, 2019 - 9:30 pm

    if someone has tapes of the grandrapids christmas parade the “american star twinkies ” were there twirling heavy old men twirling a baton wearing to-tos never used in my work or future endevers but still have my baton 30 years later

    Reply
  7. Loretta Haskins (Agnew)
    August 4, 2019 - 9:28 am

    My name is Loretta Haskins (Agnew-maiden) and I also was an African American twirlerin Grand Rapids from 1986 to 1990. The group I twirled with was The Sensations whom was taught by Missy. I remember alot of the things that we were taught and I thank Mrs. Bonnie for teaching so many young children to twirl baton. She also allowed us to showcase our talents in many pagents, competitions, parades, talent shows, tv shows (Bozo Show at WZZM Radio station), etc. I had a lot of friends back then. If anyone from that era is looking for fellow twirlers, I’m on fb and ig

    Reply

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