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July 21, 2019

Submitted photosThe Pioneer Park Historical Complex is the new home of The Belles of St Mary's Drum and Bugle Corps exhibit. Visitors are welcome to tour the exhibit for free.
Submitted photos

The Pioneer Park Historical Complex is the new home of The Belles of St Mary's Drum and Bugle Corps exhibit. Visitors are welcome to tour the exhibit for free.
7/3/2019 7:30:00 AM
Belles of St. Mary's Drum and Bugle Corps exhibit moves to Pioneer Park Historical Complex

The Pioneer Park Historical Complex is the new home of the Belles of St Mary's Drum and Bugle Corps exhibit. Previously located at St Mary's School in Rhinelander, the display was removed during recent new construction and needed to find a new home.

Former Belle, and exhibit organizer, Tracey Barnes approached PPHC Director Kerry P. Bloedorn about setting up the display within the museum complex, according to a PPHC press release.

"There was room in the Antique Fire Equipment Museum Building along with a large unused display case," the release states. "The antique Rhinelander fire trucks, and Rhinelander's first commissioned fire wagon, as well as the Belles were featured in many Rhinelander parades of yester-year, and so with the Rhinelander Fire Department's blessing, the exhibit will be permanently displayed at PPHC."

Known as Rhinelander's "good will ambassadors," the Belles of St Mary's Drum and Bugle Corps was started in 1956 by Al and Delia DiGiacomo for St Mary's school girls, and by the end of its famed 20-year run became non-denominational. Starting with 36 members it grew into a large 96 member corps traveling around the country and beyond.

Many Rhinelander residents will remember the Belles morning and evening practices that echoed through the community during the '60s and '70s. The Belles would perform in many local parades doing two or three parades in a single day entertaining crowds in often hot weather donning their memorable tartan sashes and skirts.

In 1974 the Belles won the All-Girl contest at the VFW Nationals in Chicago and went on to compete in the evening competition where they took 10th place. It was the first time in VFW national competition that an all-girl corps had placed in the finals, a highlight for the Belles.

Memorabilia from this important organization in Rhinelanders history including uniforms, posters, trophies, photo albums and more will be on permanent display at Pioneer Park Historical Complex. A small table and chairs have been set up for visitors to look through the many photo albums included in the display.

With the addition of the Belles exhibit, the Antique Fire Equipment Museum has been adapted for better visitor access and will now be open to visitors to enter for better viewing of these wonderful relics of Rhinelander's past, the release states.

The Pioneer Park Historical Complex featurs seven museums in one located within Pioneer Park on Martin Lynch Drive in Rhinelander.

It is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, six days a week, and Fridays and Saturdays through September. It's closed on Mondays, except for Memorial Day and Labor Day. Tuesday through Saturday, the complex is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

Admission is free, but donations help to operate the museum and are greatly appreciated, the release states.

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