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The Interstate 57 Show Choir Belt

Starting down Interstate 57 south from Chicago runs you straight through a collection of some of eastern Illinois’s finest mixed groups, including the Crete-Monee Cavaliers, Peotone Powerhouse, Manteno Magic, and Kankakee Take Note.

Crete-Monee Cavaliers

Cavaliers are a mixed group averaging 30 singer-dancers, under the direction of Robert Mohr, and choreography by Sam Mulligan and Grace Pacheco. As of the publishing date, they are set to perform at the Fort Atkinson Showcase (Feb. 10th), the El Paso-Gridley Show Choir Showdown (Feb. 17th), and the Peotone Blue Devil Dance Party (Feb. 24th). Cavs had a solid season in 2023 but only made finals twice. This year, Cavaliers are looking to make a bigger splash in the central and eastern Illinois scene. After going through a director and choreographer change in 2021, Cavaliers are starting to build some momentum in their program. Although they have yet to start their season, Cavaliers could be an underdog for more finals placements in the 2023-2024 season. With choreography by Sam Mulligan, who works with groups all around the country, Cavs will look to build upon winning the lower mixed division at El Paso-Gridley last season. Crete-Monee will also host the Show Choir Spectacular (Feb. 3rd), a staple competition in Illinois. With groups from Waubonsie Valley, Wheaton North, and Alan B. Shepard, it is an all-Illinois battle! While CM is a long way from its late 1990s glory days under John Neubauer, 2024 can definitely be a step in the right direction for them.

Peotone Powerhouse

As you continue down I-57, the next show choir town after Crete is Peotone. Boasting a mixed choir of 30 singer-dancers and under the direction of Tracy Marcotte Toepfer (who was new from Kankakee in advance of last season). They are confirmed (at publishing time) to perform at the Crete-Monee Show Choir Spectacular (Feb. 3rd), Manteno Main Event (Feb. 10th), and Glenwood The Event (Mar. 2nd). Powerhouse placed fourth, fifth, and sixth in the Tier 2 or Prep division in the 2022-2023 season. Peotone is one of many east-central Illinois groups that make up the bulk of the lower division at competitions. This consistent competition matchup can make it difficult to move around in the Tier 2 division. Peotone boasts a massive music program, with a very involved choir group, a theater troupe, and a band. Powerhouse is not only looking to move up the Prep division but to potetially make finals at some point this season. They will host the inaugural Blue Devil Dance Party (Feb. 24), which will feature Glenwood along with several staple groups of the area, including Crete-Monee, Manteno, Kankakee, Herscher and Danville.

Manteno Magic

Continuing down I-57 leaves you in the town of Manteno, with its large mixed show choir Manteno Magic. Magic is a program of 45 singer-dancers, directed by Sean Hoffmann and choreographed by Michael Talamonti. Magic will compete (as of publishing time) at the De Pere Destination De Pere: Let’s Jam! (Feb. 3rd), El Paso-Gridley Show Choir Showdown (Feb. 17th), Peotone Blue Devil Dance Party (Feb. 24th), and Glenwood The Event (Mar. 2nd). Manteno is a program steeped with legacy, as 2024 is Hoffman's 13th season with the group and choreographer Michael Talamonti's 19th. Magic had a consistent season last year with two fourth placements in finals, as well as a third-place, fifth-place, and a second-place win! Magic is traveling up to Wisconsin this season, which presents an interesting matchup, as not many large Illinois programs make the trip up to Wisconsin. The rest of their season will be spent in eastern and central Illinois at more familiar competitions. Magic is looking to snag a Grand Champion win this season, something they have not done since 2018. Manteno Magic proudly hosts the Manteno Main Event (Feb. 10th), a large competition for the Illinois scene with many smaller programs in attendance.

Kankakee Take Note

Our last stop down I-57 is Kankakee Take Note, a notable program in east-central Illinois. take Note has 34 singer-dancers under the sophomore direction of Brad Benoit. They will compete at (as of publishing time) the El Paso-Gridley Show Choir Showdown (Feb. 17th) and Peotone Blue Devil Dance Party (Feb. 24th). With the exception of one first-place win in Tier 2 last season, Take Note has been a consistent third-place and fourth-place group in the Prep and Tier 2 divisions. They have also experienced a director change when Tracy Marcotte Toepfer left in 2022 to continue the Peotone Powerhouse program. This recent director change has shown overall better placements for the group and holds a promising future for Take Note. Kankakee, who used to host the Kankakee Take the Stage Invitational, will not host in 2024. The last competition they held was in 2022, with a Grand Champion sweep taken by Mt. Zion Swingsations. While their competition schedule is a little light right now, don't count out Take Note to take steps forward!

With consistent match-ups of all of these groups, their programs do not disappoint when it comes to passion, fun, and love for show choir! While the I-57 belt may not consist of the largest groups, they remain an indispensable part of the Illinois show choir scene.

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