The 58th annual event is the largest fife and drum muster in the world.
As a history lover’s treasure trove, New England holds its traditions dear. So when people in the Connecticut River Valley think of summer and the senses, we smell the hotdogs and sizzling hamburgers in the air; we see lush gardens and forests of green; we feel the thick air and heat.
And when it comes to the sounds of summer, it's hard for anyone who lives anywhere near Exit 5 on Route 9 not to think of the fifes and drums of the Deep River Ancient Muster, which is held every year on the third Saturday of July.
Even those who live several states – or oceans – away might be thinking of coming to Deep River to hear the keening of the fifes against the thunder of the drums.
In 2011, more than 50 corps marched the mile from Kirtland and Main streets to Devitt’s Field in Deep River. Corps from all over the map took to the street: New England, Indiana, Virginia, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia and more. Many old favorites appeared, including the Middlesex County Volunteers; the Ancient Mariners of Guilford, CT; the Moodus Fife & Drum Corps; the Colonial Williamsburg Alumni of Williamsburg, VA; and the Rhine River Rebels of Basel, Switzerland.
The Deep River muster is an age-old custom that many families have taken part in for generations. The muster is the largest in the world, and thousands flock here every year to play, to listen, and to take part in the fellowship of ancient patriotic music. There is a unique relationship with a Swiss corps or two; Basel, Switzerland, and Deep River have been reciprocal in their love of ancient marching music and performance.
Julia and Bea, two fifers with the Rhine River Rebels of Basel, Switzerland, said, “The reason we come is to meet other corps and other people.”
Julia’s been to the Deep River muster 10 times. Bea’s on her third visit.
They’re both ecstatic to be back. “Deep River’s great!”
It would be hard to fathom something that Deep River’s Patty Unan hasn’t done for or with the ancient muster. She’s been director emeritus since 1990. She’s also been the president, the vice president, the secretary, the treasurer, a member of the fife and drum corps and a member of the board of the directors.
According to Unan, pre-registration for the muster came to 57 corps. Several more were expected on the day of the parade.
“We’re probably looking at more than 1,500 marching total, and I think we’re expecting more than the usual five thousand spectators this year – probably be closer to 10,000 this year.”
With the great weather and stellar publicity this year, Unan’s expectations were realized. Best of all, the expectations of muster-lovers were also met.
Holding his baby, Mason Lee, on his shoulder, young dad Matt Costello, who lives in Eastford, summed it up: “This is probably my 26th Deep River Muster. My father, my grandparents, and friends have been doing this their whole life. My grandparents, Bob and Diane Costello, have been doing this for 40 years. We like it.”