Having been involved with one of the few remaining outside of the NE class A corps I can share some interesting information. For Carolina Gold in my opinion the biggest handicap is travel cost and time. The cost of DCA in the south is much higher than the NE mainly because of travel costs and practice time lost due to travel may be considered a competitive disadvantage. What I thin Gold has done to survive as a DCA corps in the south is first they have a great instructional staff, The Guard caption head is in high demand and many people want to work with him in the guard, also they have great Brass instructors, the Brass arrangements the past 2 years have been written by Jesse, the Corps Director and I think especially this years was really great. I think that their championship show could go head to head with any show from a DCI corps of that size (26 horns). So people are attracted to the corps for the learning experience. It is also a fun corps, I know folks won't pay a lot of money for their kids to go out and have fun every weekend, but most of the parents I talked with always told me how the kids looked forward to their Corps weekend and came home tired, but happy. The part where I came in was that they had good food every weekend , I also helped on the Phantom regiment food truck but I think that my food at Gold was better than what PR had and PR had some good chow too. Last year 2018 was a new start for the corps, basically the budget was tight. For many years before the corps had gone to Big Sounds in Motion in Reading the week before finals. In April when schedules were being finalized it was determined that there was no way that the corps could afford to travel to that show. After that call was made the corps had only 1 DCA show (A dci open class/DCA show ) before finals and I and many others questioned whether going forward was viable the members want to do shows and get scores. I do not Know the full story but with the possibility of losing another corps I think that DCA gave them permission and support for a one corps show 2 weeks before finals, which may have saved Gold's season. So though people moan about 1 corps shows I think that it showed that DCA did want to try to save some out of the NE units.
Another thing that I was against originally that I think may have kept Gold going was the move back to Class A for 2018., BY writng a show for 65 people and performing it with 65 committed people you get a much better product than writing a show for 100 when only 75 are really committed and the rest are just filling holes. Also you can have a balanced show, 26 brass in a 65 person show is a powerful horn line, 26 brass supporting a 100 member show is struggling. It also makes sense financially since every seat on the bus is filled and you are not paying for 10 empty seats on each bus. From a kitchen viewpoint cooking for 80( Corps, Staff, Volunteers) is much easier than 120 especially with the facilities we had. I think the possibility of winning also motivated the corps. I am sure everyone would put out their best even if they were fighting for 8th place, However in 2018 when after prelims the corps was .06 behind the Govies and becoming class A champs. the kids really went to work and practiced very smartly and then gave the best show of that Season. This year the pressure of being defending champs motivated the kids and they stepped up huge for finals 2 points better than prelims.
In spite of the financial challenges the corps still goes to DCI Atlanta every year, which is actually the highlight of the season for many marchers. The corps is the first corps on and has had no practice time since the Sunday before ( it is a 6 hour drive from Raleigh to ATL) and is judged by DCI Judges who give good tips for improvement, but don't really match up to DCA judging. However it is on Flo Marching, and the kids get to see the rest of the show from the 10 yard line and make contacts with DCI corps if they want to march next season.
Another thing that I like about Gold is that it is a second choice corps most of out young marchers tried out for Crown or Spirit and realized they weren't ready yet, ot just couldn't afford it and Gold as limited as performances are gives them a chance to perform and step up their game, this year we had a couple from last year who could have made a good DCI corps but opted to stay with Gold because they liked the experience. If you watch the corps from day one of practice until their finals show you see a huge amount of progress and tremendous growth. The first full corps weekend in 2018 we had such a motley crew and I was worried that they would embarrass themselves on the field (Which is why I styed to help that season, I thought at least they will get a good meal out of practice before they have to hang their heads) But 4 months later they were really good .
I don't know how this applies to other out of NE corps but it definatly will hurt them eventually if they don't have a good multi year plan that is transparent. And my biggest disappointment with Gold was that they did not have a real plan that possible donors could see. I had wanted to purchase some new Tubas for the Corps but I could not find out if they had plans to buy a matched set in the future, or how many they would need, or even if that was the greatest need for the corps. Everyone had different ideas what was needed but there was no plan on what the # 1 priority was. ANd no guarantee that if you gave money to buy Tubas that it would actually go to that. I wound up using some of that money to buy Tee shirts for the Corps members and will probably give a lot to my local theater group and PR will get some too. However without a visible plan that donors can easily see and understand there is not a very large supportbase and the corps are forced to rely on member dues for most of the corps expenses. I think a lot of the Class A corps did not have a detailed multi year plan and members and donors did not see where the corps was going and the corps wound up ending or dropping from DCA.