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Youth Center club wins local awards

LOMPOC, Calif. --  (From left) Meagan Vail, Tyler Vail, Sadie Anderson, Joyce Culliver, Cassandra Matthew, Annika Dorado and Elizabeth Heatherly pose before starting the Lompoc Flower Festival parade. Ms. Culliver is the leader of the Baton Twirlers Club, and has led the team to two wins in local majorette competitions. (Courtesy photo)

LOMPOC, Calif. -- (From left) Meagan Vail, Tyler Vail, Sadie Anderson, Joyce Culliver, Cassandra Matthew, Annika Dorado and Elizabeth Heatherly pose before starting the Lompoc Flower Festival parade. Ms. Culliver is the leader of the Baton Twirlers Club, and has led the team to two wins in local majorette competitions. (Courtesy photo)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Vandenberg Youth Center's Baton Twirling Club won first place in the majorette category at the Lompoc Flower Festival parade recently. 

This is the second first place win in a parade for the club, which started in June 2007; their first win was in Lompoc's Children's Holiday Parade in December 2007. 

"I was nervous at first in the first parade," said Megan Vail, a club member. "The second parade, once we were in there, I didn't worry so much. I like the attention you get." 

Getting to two-time winner status took a lot of work, said Joyce Culliver, a Youth Center school-age child care provider and club leader. When she started the club, the girls used small plastic wands. They moved up to larger plastic sticks and finally moved to the metal batons used by majorettes. 

"Before this last parade, we practiced every day for an hour," Ms. Culliver said. "We were trying to build their stamina and get them used to staying on their feet for one hour." 

The current six-girl team was assisted by other girls who had joined the program at the beginning. This wasn't just to speed up the girls' progress. 

"This gives the girls a sense of belonging and builds camaraderie," Ms. Culliver said. "They took care of each other at practice ... it's like a buddy system." 

All of this practice has paid off. Not only have the girls won in parade competitions, they have steadily increased their skills in a short time. 

"They've progressed a lot," Ms. Culliver said. "Now they can do under the leg or around their neck. When we moved to the real baton, the seriousness kicked in, but we don't want put too much on them." 

Some of the girls said they loved all the training and learning they got to do being part of the club. 

"My favorite part of the club is when we learn new tricks and routines," said Tyler Vail, a club member. "I want to do more parades. More girls should join so they can know how it feels to be in a parade." 

More children can join in August, since the club is on hiatus for July. Ms. Culliver said the club is looking for girls to be baton twirlers, banner holders and color guard. Before she can start the color guard, however, she also needs a volunteer to train the girls and herself in correct color guard procedures. 

For more information on joining the club, parents should contact the Youth Center at 606-2152. The goal of the club goes beyond learning to be a majorette. 

"I put together this organization to develop esprit de corps, develop the sharpest image we can for our youth," Ms. Culliver said.