Well known band camp was in Syracuse

What is summer without going to some type of camp? On the fringes of Syracuse in Kosciusko County, not far from the Elkhart County line, was a band camp that was known literally on a national level. It was known as the Smith Walbridge Camp. Merl and Margaret Smith founded it in 1949 as a baton twirling school. In 1950, George Walbridge became a partner and now you know how the name Smith Walbridge came about. It was the first camp in the country offering specialized training and it grew by leaps and bounds. Eventually, thousands of high school and college students from every state and even some foreign countries were coming to the camp during the summer months. Though it started as a baton twirling camp, it didn’t stay that way and more areas were focused on. Merl and Margaret’s son, Gary Smith, took over the camp’s operations in 1983. He brought in nationally known music specialists and expanded the program to meet the needs of changing marching bands. But more camps were formed across the nation and band students had more options to choose from. Smith Walbridge was sold in 1990 and the clinics were moved to Illinois. The clinics are still held at Eastern Illinois University. Shown in the photo is what used to be an office building off Eastshore Drive in Syracuse. For many summers, though, a camp near Boner Lake made special memories for band students.

Former office building of Smith Walbridge band camp near Syracuse.

Former office building of Smith Walbridge band camp near Syracuse.


About historynut11

My name is Tim Ashley and I am a newspaper editor/reporter/photographer in Milford, Indiana, and live in nearby Goshen, Indiana. A deeply held and sincere passion of mine is history and learning from the past. I enjoy a wide variety of history topics, but particularly local history, noted American highways (Lincoln Highway and Route 66), railroad history and the Civil War. I believe we can learn much from the past and that past shapes who we are today. I also enjoy visiting museums and historical sites, as well as taking photos of remnants from the past still standing.
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