Creig P. Sherburne/Atascadero News • Members of the Santa Margarita Elite Precision Wheelbarrow Brigade Drill Team participate in the Santa Margarita Fourth of July Parade on Wednesday.
There are some sports figures we all know. Michael Jordan. Wayne Gretzky. Jose Canseco. Maybe even David Beckham.
And even if you’re not a fan of the sport, everybody knows about baseball. Everybody knows about soccer. And most people even know about the sport of curling.
It’s time that precision wheelbarrowing got its due.
The Santa Margarita Elite Precision Wheelbarrow Brigade Drill Team Corp may not be made up of household names, but based on the teams performance at the Santa Margarita Fourth of July parade, it may not be long until everybody locally knows the names of David Arndt, Mike Blank, Duane Inglish, Mark Eliot, Simone Smith and Marianne Orme.
The team got its start about 14 years ago while planting the Santa Margarita demonstration forest near Santa Margarita Elementary School. Students still use the area to learn about the world around them.
Members of the brigade were involved in its building, which involved the wheelbarrowing of soil and tools back and forth. It wasn’t long before small dances were being performed.
The next logical step, Blank said, was to formalize it. Its first public performance was in 1997 at the Days of the Dons parade.
Since then, it has become a tradition and a way of life for its participants.
“You will pry my wheelbarrow from my cold dead hands,” Blank said.
Not that there’s much threat of
anybody wanting to take the wheelbarrows away. The group’s performance was well-received at the Santa Margarita Fourth of July parade. The phrase “thunderous applause” only begins to describe the crowd’s reaction.
Members of the brigade danced and twirled and do-si-doed while Inglish played jaunty accordion music and Arndt literally oversaw the operation from his perch atop giant stilts.
Arndt said that he used to wheelbarrow, but picked up the stilts about four years ago because he “likes the view.”
“Doing [the parade] on stilts, people love it,” Arndt said.
Orme said the group had a banjo player at one time, but that he is now world-famous and on tour in Europe earning wheelbarrow-loads of money, but the group is lucky to have Inglish on accordion.
“Anything to diversify,” she said.
The group has been together a long time and is well practiced. Still, depending on who you talk to, rehearsals for the actual parade begin either three months or 30 minutes before the parade actually starts. It’s impossible to tell for sure.
And though it may seem to be a happy group performing for an appreciative crowd, the brigade has had its share of tragedy. Aside from losing the banjo player, last year during the parade, one of the wheelbarrows lost a wheel, turning it into a barrow.
“We somehow got through it,” Elliot said.
There were no such tragedies this year.
But last year’s tragedy didn’t keep the group from performing admirably this year. In fact, the group seems to see precision wheelbarrowing as a patriotic duty.
“It’s the essence of exercising the first amendment,” Blank said.
“We love Santa Margarita,” she said. “It’s why we live here. It’s like Mayberry of the west.”
So what’s next for The Santa Margarita Elite Precision Wheelbarrow Brigade Drill Team Corp?
First of all, the group agreed that it will only perform at the Santa Margarita Fourth of July parade in the future.
“We signed an exclusive contract,” Blank said. “But we will be back again next year come hell or high water. As long as the creek doesn’t rise.”