by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
Andrea Fletcher’s students arrive at her classes at the Bangor Recreation Department with batons in their hands to learn a sport Fletcher has been involved in since she was 7 years old and growing up in New Hampshire.
“I fell in love with twirling and I wanted to give kids the same kind of opportunities that I had — and more,” she said of her decision to teach the sport.
Fletcher’s introduction to Bangor came about when she was invited to assist East Coast Twirling Association Director Diane Higgins with the World of Twirl summer camp in Bangor in 2000. Four years later Fletcher took a job in Bangor, and she and Higgins began co-coaching. When Higgins retired in 2009, the coach and director “baton” passed to Fletcher. At that point, Fletcher founded Central Maine Twirling Corps.
“There are not a lot of [baton twirling] programs north of Augusta,” Fletcher said, though there are a few in the western part of Maine, she pointed out.
Baton twirling, she said, is exciting to watch and encompasses many areas of skill, including gymnastics, dance, showmanship, performance, athletics, hand-eye coordination, juggling and storytelling. “It’s about a lot more than rhinestones, glitter and sparkly stuff,” she said.
Megan Williams of Brewer, a recent University of Maine graduate, who has been twirling for 16 years, is one of Fletcher’s students, though for the past five years she has worked with Fletcher as an assistant teacher at the classes at the Bangor Recreation Department.
“Baton twirling helped me gain confidence,” Williams said. “If I hadn’t picked up a baton I would not be comfortable in front of people. It helped me with commitment and dedication. It’s one of those sports that is very well-rounded in what it teaches young people. The team aspect of it is the best part of it. It’s so much fun to be on the floor with your teammates. I’ve been fortunate to have really impressive team members. As long as we have people like Andrea, baton twirling will be around a long time.”
Williams will take part, for the last time, in the National Baton Twirling Association Grand National Twirling Championships July 20-27 at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. She is a member of Fletcher’s Main-E-Acts competition level twirlers.
“You meet people from all over the place and the competitors become your friends,” Williams said. Other team members are Mollie Berglund, Amanda Cameron, Alexandra Clowes, Jenna Cross, Matteah Hamm, Taylor Hickey, Molly King, Morgan Mayhew, Lindsay Pitts, Meagan Sawyer, Carley Scanlon and Morgan Sorey. The twirlers represent the towns of Augusta, Bangor, Brewer, Bucksport, Farmington, Holden, Orrington, Orono, Readfield, South Paris, West Gardiner, Whitefield and Windsor, and are coached by Fletcher. They are the reigning 2014 Northeast Regional Senior Dance Twirl Team Champions and Senior Halftime Show Team Champions. Twirlers in the Main-E-Acts range in age from 12 to 22, and several, including Williams are University of Maine majorettes. Fletcher started the UMaine majorette program in 2010, Williams said.
The week of July 22-26 is recognized as National Baton Twirling Week, Fletcher said.
“It’s very hard work,” Fletcher said. “The twirlers [in the Main-E-Acts] spend 15 hours a weeks practicing, sometimes on their own. They are very dedicated.”
Williams has won many awards for her baton twirling, but the award that means most to her was when she won in the Collegiate Solo Division in 2012. “I joined the UMaine Majorettes in 2010 so it was cool to be able to support my school, then to take that title,” she said.
In addition to teaching baton twirling classes, Fletcher works fulltime at Maine Health and lives in Portland. She commutes to Bangor to teach at Bangor Rec.
“Twirling is my hobby,” she said. “It gives me a nice break. I enjoy working with the kids and seeing their progress — going from a ‘can’t march yet’ six-year-old to making the twirler line at Penn State.”
Fletcher will open registration online in August for the fall session of baton twirling classes at the Bangor Recreation Department. Classes run from September through June. Some of her students march in Bangor’s annual holiday parade.
“It’s a great activity for kids and will teach them much more than baton twirling,” Fletcher said.
For information or to register for baton twirling classes, go to centralmainetwirling.com. For information about Bangor Recreation and it’s programs, go to bangorparksandrec.com.