David Van Wey is one of the founding fathers of the Rubbermade Brigade. As the group gears up for the summer performance season, he paused to discuss the past, present, and future of these unique entertainers.
The Rubbermade Brigade began in the spring of 2012.
Van Wey said, "It's our third season. We decided to go in a different direction from the group we were in. We had a drum line, but no drums or venues. We thought we could form a bucket band with things like 55 gallon drums, a washboard, and homemade percussion. We thought this was great! We decided we were going to try it. But we needed a sense of purpose." "We thought about charities," Van Wey continued. "The first year, we gave $170 to Alliance for Cancer in Roswell, and $170 to the Humane Society."
The Rubbermade Brigade plays at the Grape Festival parade. Left to right: Front:Lenore Roof, Terry Roof, Dave Palmer, Dave Van Wey, Dave Jagoda and Randy Van Wey. Back row: Bill Navaro, Leon T. and Mary Miller.
Last year, the group donated $500 to each charity. Van Wey added, "Almost everyone is touched by cancer. As far as the Humane Society, people love their pets, and some of our members volunteer for the Humane society."
Where did the name come from? Van Wey said, "First it was a bucket band. Then it was 'bucket nears' You know, like ready to kick the bucket. Then someone said, 'with all this plastic, we should call it rubbermade.' It's spelled that way so not to infringe on any copyrights."
The instrumentation of the group is unique. Van Wey explained, "It's a band of drummers, with the melody provided by Lenore Pucci Roof on bells that are on loan to the group. She uses an old glockenspiel that is mounted horizontally. ... Lenore does an excellent job. She taught herself."
He added, "The first year, we tried kazoos for the melody, but couldn't generate enough power while we were drumming."
Lenore, her husband Terry, and Van Wey are the group's co-leaders. They are integrating "legitimate instruments" into the group drums were donated. At the Grape Festival last fall, they played a legitimate drum solo.
"But the buckets are the most fun," VanWey said with a twinkle in his eye.
Musical arrangements and selections offer something for everyone's taste. One of the most popular is their military medley, which features anthems from each of the Armed Forces. Their repertoire includes everything from the Colonel Bogey march to Chopsticks. One of the newer selections is "Limbo Rock."
The Brigade's members hail from Williamsville, Olean, Silver Creek, Gowanda, and Dunkirk. All enjoy each other's company. There's limited space on the trailer, so they have enough musicians at this time.
"If we were to add someone to the trailer, we'd have to ask someone to get off. We don't want to do that or disappoint anyone. We use a car-carrier from Ellman's for our performances," Van Wey said. "What we need, is people to walk along with us to collect donations for these two charities. We give a string of beads for donations - red, white and blue for patriotic events, purple for the Grape Festival. If anyone's interested in helping out with this, they can call Terry at 363-0297. They wouldn't have to commit for the whole season. "
David talked about his son Randy, who, like his Dad, has played drums on weekends with local groups and performers. The Brigade is truly a family affair. Sometimes, grandchildren collect with buckets for the charities. The estimated age range of the performers and collectors is from 8 to 80. Rehearsals are held at the Roofs' residence in Silver Creek.
The Brigade is anticipating five or six performances this year. "It's a hobby, not a profession," Van Wey stated.
The first appearance this year will be Monday's Memorial Day parade in Dunkirk. Others scheduled include the 4th of July parade in Mayville, the Fredonia Farm Festival, and the Silver Creek Grape Festival. They have also been invited to Warren, Pa., and a festival in Springville, so those are possibilities.
VanWey said, "We don't want to over-commit or take the fun out of it."
The dress of the group is a cheery yellow. The logo on the shirts and some of the instruments is a cartoon cat beating on a drum.
When asked about a favorite memory or two, Van Wey said, "The fact that we were so well-received. It was heart-warming! We thought we would probably make fools of ourselves. It was the complete opposite! The response and thank-yous from the charities has been heart-warming. We're very grateful."
He summarized the feelings of his group by saying, "It's a kick to do something you enjoy and do something good that feels so good."
Watch for the Rubbermade Brigade this summer at a parade near you. Let them put a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
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