Baton twirler earns top award at State Fair

Tammy Tucker

In a gold-sequined outfit, Erin Callahan struts around stage to the swing beat of “Zoot Suit Riot.” She twirls her baton, throws it more than 25 feet in the air and catches it behind her back. She spins, does high kicks and juggles three batons.
Callahan, a senior in public relations, awed a packed grandstand at the Minnesota State Fair talent competition, winning the first prize of $1,500.
“She was amazing. She carried it off like a pro,” recalled Lindsay Helgeson, a senior in mass communications and a spectator at Callahan’s prize-winning performance.
This year, the competition boasted 283 contestants in the fair’s nightly competitions. Pre-teen, teen and open division winners competed for top honors on Sept. 5.
“There were 70 acts in the semi-final open division and during the final round, there were 12 acts that Erin competed against,” said Nancy Miller, Minnesota State Fair talent contest coordinator.
For more than four years, Callahan, 21, has been the feature baton twirler for the University Marching Band. She was the band’s first baton twirler in 10 years.
Living in Cambridge, Minn., Callahan knew the University didn’t have a baton program. She applied to several other schools around the country, and on a lark her mom sent a video of Callahan’s performance to the University’s marching band.
On the day Callahan was prepared to accept an offer from the University of Arizona, University of Minnesota band director Eric Becker convinced Callahan to attend the University of Minnesota and revitalize the baton program. She said it was an offer too good to refuse.
“I’m hoping to develop a new tradition with this school,” said Callahan.
Callahan has been competing for eight years and recently placed third in the National Baton Twirling Association’s college competition.
Baton twirling has been Callahan’s passion since she was five, she said. She has performed around the country and even internationally.
Although she will no longer be eligible to compete when she graduates, Callahan intends to keep twirling. She said she would like to continue to travel and perhaps someday teach others.
Callahan performs with the marching band at Gophers football and basketball games as well as other special events.