Mike Bonnell marched with the corps in the mid 1980s and still lives within a short distance of the J. Babe Stearn Center (the second “the Boys Club” building). Mike’s earliest memory of the Bluecoats was back in the early to mid 70’s. His Mom’s best friend lived by the old Boy’s Club on Navarre Rd. and they use to go there on the weekends to visit, and the Bluecoats would be there at times rehearsing. “We would be out there watching them practice,” Mike said. “ A guy I marched in high school with (Paul Sutter) asked me to come to a Bluecoats rehearsal, so I did. I was hooked from day one!”
He played soprano in 1984, and 1986; Flugel Horn in 1985. A memory that sticks out was in 1985, “we did a stand still performance for the Mayor’s Breakfast at 6:00 am before we marched the HOF Grand Parade,” Mike said. “We were the first marching unit in the parade, after the parade we had a little break, and got to go swimming for a little bit in the Natatorium by Fawcett Stadium. Then we warmed up and performed the pre-game show for the HOF game, got to watch most of the 1st half before we did the half-time show. After the half time show we loaded the buses and drove to Pennsylvania where we did a night show. When we finally got on the bus it was around 11:30 pm for almost 18 hours of on the go performances. What a great and really exhausting day, but a day I will never forget.”
Mike aged out 30 years ago in 1986, which was the first time Bluecoats made the top 25. “I gave my original alumni jacket away to a current member. His name is Justin Cohen, and he is a trumpet player. I met him last season, and was talking to him about it, and I wasn’t sure if it would fit him because he is much taller than I am, but it fit him perfect! It was way too small for me to ever wear again, and with this being 30 years since my age out it just seemed to be an appropriate time to pass it on.”
He stays involved in Canton civic functions. “I have done several charities in Canton. I have played my trumpet at Christmas time for the Salvation Army’s Kettle Drive, I have also volunteered and coached girls fast pitch softball for several years having very competitive teams, and 1 undefeated championship team.” He is also a regular volunteer for the Bluecoats bingo operation and volunteered to edge all the sidewalks at the Boys Club/ J. Babe Stearn Community Center. Mike is also a charter member of Rhythm IN BLUE, the alumni ensemble that formed in 2014. He has participated each season.
He also stays involved with the corps. “This is the 4th year now that I have helped sponsor a member with some of the fees required to march in Bluecoats. When I marched drum corps it wasn’t as expensive, but I paid my brothers way through Bluecoats in 1984, and 1986.”
He thinks having the alumni involved as much as they are now is awesome. “I am so proud of the members today. They are such great character young men and women, and anything the alumni can do to give back is appreciated.”
In 2003 Mike became a Brown’s season ticket holder and started painting his face. “Through the years I have become quite popular in the Dawg Pound Nation, and in 2014 I was nominated into the Pro Football’s Ultimate Fan Association (PFUFA). I was invited to be in the Draft Day Movie, and I got to do a Liberty Ford commercial as Facepaint Mike. I have been interviewed on many occasions by several different news sources, and have had pictures of myself on many national and local publications too.”
Story contributed by Brian DeBoard