What Is Winter Guard? Color Guard for the Seasons.

If you are familiar with Color Guard then you have probably admired the extra style, flare, and color they provide to Marching Band performances across the globe. Their movement and expert flag-tossing give an added element of excitement to any halftime show.

But when football season is over and Marching Band Members move on to Symphonic or Jazz band what do the members of the color guard do to occupy their time?

Well, the answer is they join Winter Guard!

What is Winter Guard?

In the sport of Winter Guard, performers use colorful flags, rifles, sabers, and other various equipment to perform choreographed dances and routines to music. This is done indoors in a large gymnasium and can be for competition or entertainment.

Winter guard performances are very artful and historically involved elements of military ceremonies.

Today in modern-day winter guard members work together to perform on a large mat in a gymnasium or on a stage. The performances are a beautiful interpretation of the music.

Thank you Parkview Viking Band for use of your photo!

These shows can be so much fun to watch. The members of the team put in a lot of hard work and dedication to learn these routines that can be very technically challenging and difficult to perform.

My daughter’s high school winter guard practices every day after school. They work tirelessly to learn new skills and practice their synchronization so that they can put on a good show for us and be competitive against other color guard teams.

The performances usually last between 3 to 7 minutes which may not seem like a long time, but it takes a lot of practice and effort to make sure all the movements are in sync and perfect.

Winter guard usually performs to a recorded soundtrack instead of live music from the Marching Band or any other band. It has started to become more popular for their performances to once in a while include some element of live music whether it’s a single drummer, a singer, or acoustic or electronic music.

Live music can add difficulty to the routine as it makes it that much more to make sure that it is set at an even tempo and in sync every time it is performed. Winter Guard performances are methodically planned out down to the second and need to be executed with exactness to get the full effect of the show.

History of Winter Guard

The origins of winter guard can be traced back to the military tradition of color guard, where flags and weapons were used to display military power and honor. Over time, this tradition evolved into a competitive performance art, with teams of performers competing against each other in contests known as “drill meets.”

In the 1960s, the first winter guard competitions were held, allowing color guard teams to continue performing and competing during the winter months when outdoor competitions were not possible. Since then, winter guard has grown in popularity, with thousands of performers taking part in competitions across the United States and around the world.

Winter Guard Competitions

Many Winter Guard teams will travel and compete against other teams. They may do this regionally against other schools who have teams in their area, or they may compete on a national level.

The WGI (Winter Guard International) hosts an annual World Championship each year in Dayton Ohio. Over 60,000 spectators come each year to watch the best of the best performing.

The WGI has 3 different classes

It can take a lot of equipment Each team gets a certain amount of time to set up and take

The WGI rank and score each team based on the difficulty of the repertoire and how well they deliver quality performance with range, precision, skill, unity, and effect. They are also judges on their choreography and set design.

Winter Guard has gained in popularity across the world. It is most popular in the United States, but teams have also been formed in Canada, the UK, Japan, and the Netherlands.

What is the difference between Winter Guard and Color Guard?

Color guard and winter guard have more similarities than differences, but here is how they differ.

Winter Guard is similar to Color Guard but with some key differences. Winter guard is held indoors in a gymnasium not outdoors on a field. Winter Guard is not performed with the Marching Band and is more focused on the color guard members improving their abilities and learning more technical skills.

In the fall Color Guard is all about the marching band as a whole. The band is the focus of the show with the color guard there to support and enhance the band and the music being played.

For winter guard the roles are somewhat reversed. Shows in the winter are all about the Guard the focus is on them and the music played is to support their show and highlight them.

Winter Guard gives performers an opportunity to focus on more technical dance moves as well as interpretive movement.

There is a range of different challenges that face a guard member in Color Guard as well as Winter Guard. Color Guard can find it difficult to deal with the weather. Rain, wind, and chilly nights are often a necessary hurdle when preparing and performing.

My daughter can attest that throwing a flag in the wind adds a whole new element of difficulty to her routine.

Props need to be carefully chosen to handle the elements. One team this year had chosen to use pool noodles to twirl as a prop to their surf summer-themed show. Unfortunately during the performance, the wind picked up and blew the pool noodles across the field before they were able to use them.

Here is a summary in chart form to compare the main differences.

Winter GuardColor Guard
Held in the winter Nov. – AprilHeld in the Summer/Fall July-Oct.
Performances inside a GymnasiumPerformances outdoors in a stadium
Dances on a floor matMarches on turf or grass
Focuses more on danceFocuses on technical marching
Performers are the entire showMeant to accent the Marching Band
Smaller performing areaDeals with outdoor weather
Bear foot or jazz shoesWears Marching Band Shoes

Top Tip: To learn more about Color Guard Check out this article.
What is Color Color Guard? An In-Depth Guide

How Long Does the Winter Guard Season Last?

The Winter Guard season may vary slightly depending on your location and your specific school’s schedule, but generally, winter Guard season starts in late fall after Marching Band season is over and ends in the spring. This is typically from the start of November through April.

Winter Guard is named that for a reason. It’s held in the winter and indoors. Sometimes traveling to different locations for competitions and shows can be challenging because of winter weather, especially the more north you live.

Winter Guard in Middle School

Most middle schools across the country do not run a Winter Guard team. Some middle schools allow 7th or 8th graders to try out for the high school Winter Guard team and participate that way.

My daughter’s middle school does allow 8th graders to try out, but they usually give priority to the freshman that is just starting high school.

Winter Guard in High School

Most high schools that have Color Guard and a Marching Band will have a Winter Guard team as well. Many areas that have a really strong Marching Band program will put great emphasis on a strong Winter/Color Guard team as well. Usually, your high school website or band director can give you more information about how to try out or get involved in Winter Guard.

Is Winter Guard a Sport?

Winter Guard is just as much of a sport as Color Guard. It requires all the necessary skills and aspects that a sport entails. Members work as a team, they need endurance, technique, athleticism, practice, and precision. They compete against other teams and provide entertainment just as any other sport does.

Learn more about why Color Guard is definitely a sport by checking out this article.

Is Color Guard a Sport? Here’s Why We Say Yes! – Top Music Tips

How Many People are on a Winter Guard Team?

Winter Guard teams can have a few members all the way up to 50. Large teams may be broken down into smaller teams of varying skill levels as indoor space may limit the number of members that can perform together side by side.

Winter Guard Equipment

There is a lot of different equipment that the Winter Guard gets to use and practice with. They use flags of all different sizes as well as other props like rifles and sabres. They learn special techniques to safely spin and catch these props in unison and at different intervals. This makes an eye-catching display that is a delight to watch.

To learn more about using Sabres in Winter Guard Check out our Guide linked below.

Color Guard Sabres (Your Complete Guide)
All About Color Guard Flags (Complete Guide)

What is a Winter Guard Floor Mat?

The Winter Guard floor mat is a large vinyl tarp that is spread out across the gymnasium floor. It has a custom design printed on it that is chosen by the winter guard team or coach in order to enhance the artistic feel of their show. “The winter tarp can set a scene, create contrast, tie a show together, or provide a foundation for all that happens above it.”

The Evolution Of Floor Tarp Design – WGI

Not all Winter Guards use floor mats. In the past, it was very popular for Winter Guard teams to paint the floor to match the design of their show, but that is very labor-intensive and it requires the Winter Guard to use the same ‘stage’ to perform every time.

With advances in technology, having mats printed instead of painted has become a very popular and easy option.

When choosing a floor mat design it’s important to choose something that will enhance and compliment the feel of the show you want. Anything too loud or busy may take away from the audience’s focus on your performers.

This Winter Guard team chose the image of a broken mirror to reflect the message in their music and dancing. It’s quite emotional to watch.

How big is a Winter Guard Floor Mat?

Winter Guard floor mats are typically 60 x 90 feet or smaller. The average size is 50 ft 70 ft but it does come in many other sizes. Your floor can be smaller for smaller teams or larger for large teams.

How Much Does a Winter Guard Floor Weigh?

Winter Guard floor mats can be very heavy! Ranging from 200-500 lbs depending on how thick and heavy-duty the vinyl you choose. Most suppliers will have a choice of how heavy/thick you want the vinyl to be. The most popular is the 11oz floor.

How Much Does a Winter Guard Floor Mat Cost?

Winter Guard floors can cost anywhere from $500 on the low end all the way to $5000 or more. It depends on the size weight and customization of the floor mat.

The low-end ones that are just plain black can be found on Amazon Check Price Here.

Here are links to some companies that make custom floor mats. You will most likely need to contact them for pricing.

Digitally Printed Vinyl Floor Tarps (fieldandfloorfx.com)

Marching Arts Performance Floors – DPG Performs

Color Guard and Indoor Percussion Vinyl Floor Tarps – Drillcomp, Inc.

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