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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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COLTS DRUM AND BUGLE CORPS. "Iowa's Ambassadors of Music." An award-winning musical group, the Colts were named "Iowa's Ambassadors of Music" by Governor Terry Branstad. The Colts began in 1962 as a group of amateur musicians who wore their own black slacks, bolero ties with white shirts and sailor-style hats. This first group included forty-four untrained boys ranging from twelve to fifteen years-of-age. Not all of the group could read music, and often tarnished and handed-down instruments were played.
Photo image: Mike Day. Kendall C. Day family collection
Image courtesy: Kendall C. Day Family Collection

The first sponsor of the organization was the Dubuque Post of the AMERICAN LEGION. When the Dukes of Dubuque, the Legion's senior corps disbanded, the instruments were given to the younger organization. In 1965, the year girls were admitted, this group was known as the Legion Aires. In 1967 the name was changed to the Colt 45's and then finally to the present name in 1975. Membership continues to come primarily from the Tri-State area.

The drills of the Colts and the financial management of the group have continued to become more elaborate. In 1965 the annual budget of the Colts was $7,000. In 1987 the budget reached $190,000. Money is used to pay for transportation to competitions, instruction, and uniforms. An estimated 10 percent of the Colts' budget has come from donations, while 85 percent is earned from such activities as Colt Bingo, car washes, and selling promotional items.

During 1988 the Colts represented Dubuque and the State of Iowa in more than forty competitions. They competed in eighteen states and logged more than 12,000 miles while performing before more than one million people.

In 1993 in a writers' poll Drum Corps World ranked the Colts 14th in the nation. This was the eleventh consecutive time the organization had finished in the top 25. Consider reasons for the success was the fact that 33% of the Colts had been through the Cadet program, 70% of the 1993 corps were veterans, and staff stability. (1)

The Colts continued to have memorable moments. In 1995 they were ranked ninth in international competition in Buffalo, New York. (2) On January 20, 2009 the Colts performed at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. (3)

Image courtesy: Kendall C. Day Family Collection



1. Glindinning, Mary. "Magazine: Colts Surprise Corps of Year," Telegraph Herald, July 18, 1993, p. 3A

2. Voight, Sandye and Hinga, Allie. "Dubuque Colts Celebrate 50 Years," Telegraph Herald, July 12, 2013, Online: http://www.thonline.com/news/tri-state/article_5c05abbf-9525-5157-9bc3-08ea3bc54403.html?mode=story

3. Nowack, Craig. E-mail, April 10, 2018

Colts Drum and Bugle Corps website

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