Winter guard is the name used to refer to the activities related to a marching band's color guard when they must be moved indoors for winter performances. Color guard generally uses flags or sabers, along with costumes and dance, to add visual elements to marching band performances. Props and music are also used in these events. This type of guard is often confused with gymnastics, figure skating and dance.
There is no specific age, race or sex requirement for joining the winter guard. Although winter guard is usually seen as a youth activity, older individuals can join as well in communities where adult marching bands are popular. Membership usually has to be limited to thirty performers per team. Although there are several types of guards for the winter, most are school-based and compete in scholastic categories. Generally, guards do not accept anyone under the age of nine.
The competitions for winter guard typically start in January, so most most guards begin training in the summer time or, if it is for a school, as soon as schools starts. The performances usually are held in a gymnasium or arena because the performances and competitions are held during the winter months. Guard during the winter is also held indoors so that participants have enough room to lay the floor tarp down that they use for performances. This type of guard is also so held indoors so there is enough room to perform without with fewer risks of injury do to ice and snow.
Each performance has a specific theme, with this they will have props and music set up to allow the audience to understand and see the theme. They have a specific time limit they can perform. This may include setting up the props and floor trap, along with the actual performance itself. The time limit for each winter guard will differ because each branch has various criteria they have to meet. This criteria and time limit will determine how the guard places in competition.
The uniform for winter guard usually consists of clothing apparel that is flashy and stands out. These uniforms are a very easy way to draw the attention of the audience and judges to the performers. Along with the uniforms, the performers also use their bodies and other objects to attract attention and to help audiences understand the performance better.
Winter guard may use many flags, sabers and rifles. These items are only props, though; they are not dangerous. In addition, these props are usually lightweight and easy to handle. The performers regularly spin, twirl, and toss the props in the air during the course of the performance. This type of performance is considered a sport, but for some, it is a work of art.