History of the Deer Escorts

The Deer Park Independent School District was formed in 1930. During the district’s twentieth anniversary celebration, then superintendent, Mr. Clyde Abshier, had a vision of a new spirit group. He was looking for a way to get more girls involved with the sports teams, but he wasn’t quite sure in what form that organization should take. It is quite understandable that Mr. Abshier had no idea at the time, just how much of a symbol of pride his new spirit group would become to the DPISD. He assigned the task of forming this new organization of spirit boosters to support the football and basketball teams to Mrs. Doll Forrest. Mrs. Forrest was a former All American basketball player and coach for the girl’s basketball team at the time. Although Mrs. Forrest had little dance knowledge, she stepped into her new assignment with unlimited energy and enthusiasm. Her first task was to give the new organization a name. Although there are no written records of why she chose the name she did, legend has it that since this new organization was designed to support the football and basketball teams, they would need to “escort” the teams wherever they traveled. Hence, the Deer Escorts.

For the next twenty six years, Mrs. Forrest acted as director, choreographer and seamstress for the Deer Escorts, while also coaching (at varies times) the girl’s basketball team, the girl’s volleyball team, the girl’s track team and the girl’s tennis team. Under Mrs. Forrest’s direction, the Deer Escorts grew to become a well respected drill team, performing at football games, basketball games, and countless school functions.

In May of 1978, Mrs. Doll Forrest retired. In an unexpected twist, this one time All American basketball player and very talented coach, found that the legacy she would leave behind would not only be one of sports, but the incredible drill team she had formed and developed over her twenty eight year career at DPISD. The district held a special ceremony during the halftime of the season’s final football game, to honor Mrs. Forrest’s accomplishments,
she would be missed.

In the fall of 1978, Mrs. Cindy Faris-Daily assumed the Deer Escort’s director position. A former Deer Escort herself, Mrs. Faris-Daily accepted her new position with a clear vision of what she wanted the organization to become during her tenure. In her own words, “My vision of the Deer Escorts was the hope that it become a valuable organization for teaching some of life’s lessons for everyone who had the privilege of being a member, and that it provide the friendships and fun that make high school memorable. I know that Escorts did that for me both as a member and as it’s director.”
Mrs. Faris-Daily is credited with making the team both more modern and more military. Shr replaced the old orange and green Robin Hood uniforms with modern style gold and maroon drill team uniforms she designed. This new uniform was first worn in September of 1987. Then in keeping with her vision of a more military based organization, Mrs. Faris-Daily retired the Merry Maid title, changing the Deer Escort’s top position to Colonel. In 1988, Tami Muckleroy became the organization’s first Colonel.

Recognizing the level of dance talent the organization had, Mrs. Faris-Daily is also responsible for expanding the Deer Escorts role from football and basketball boosters to a true dance team. Looking for a venue to showcase her talented team, she adding contest season to the Deer Escort’s year.

Under her leadership, in March of 1981, the Deer Escorts attended their first dance contest in San Antonio, Texas. Unfortunately, the rules for fund raising were much stricter during the 1970’s and 1980’s, and the Deer Escorts had to share school funds with the Band, Orchestra and Choir. This meant that the Deer Escorts could only afford to attend one competition every other year.

Mrs. Faris-Daily will also be long remembered as the director who established the Escort of the Year award, designed to honor the most outstanding Deer Escort of the year. The award, which was first presented in 1979 to Wina Pinion, is now a major highlight at each Annual Deer Escort Banquet.

After serving as director for sixteen years, leading the Deer Escorts through countless performances and a lifetime of memories, Mrs. Cindy Faris-Daily retired in the spring of 1994.

In June of 1994, Ms. Laurie Bowers, a former Deer Escort officer, took firm hold of the Deer Escort reigns. Ms. Bowers is credited with transforming what had been an excellent but mostly football season oriented drill team into one of the most recognized and award winning dance teams in the state.

With help from her assistant director Mrs. Leslie Yarbrough, the Deer Escorts went from attending one competition every two years to four to six competitions each year. Under Ms. Bowers’ direction, the Deer Escorts have won more than 600 awards, plaques and trophies, including the 1999 Best in 5A Class title, the first in the organization’s history. This was quickly followed by their second Best in 5A Class title in 2001.

In her second year as director, Ms. Bowers and her assistant director Mrs. Yarbrough created the Deer Escort’s first elite competition dance group, named Dreamscape. Made up of the Lyrical Company and the Kick Company, the Dreamscape teams combined to win nineteen consecutive large ensemble competitions in one stretch, remaining undefeated for four straight years (1996-2000). In 1998, assistant director Mrs. Yarbrough stepped down to return to teaching English full time. Mrs. Kristi Bench, a new graduate from Southwest Texas State University, confidently slid into the assistant director’s position, which included Kick Company responsibilities. Then in 2001, under the leadership of Ms. Bowers and Mrs. Bench, the Dreamscape Companies won both the Marching Auxiliaries National Championship Large Ensemble Title and the National Championship Elite Team Title, the first two National Championship Titles in the Deer Escort’s history.

Ms. Bowers also completed the change to a more modern and military style organization, which Mrs. Faris-Daily had begun back in the late 1980’s, by changing the team uniforms from gold and maroon to the present maroon and white uniform, which was designed by Ms. Bowers. Finally, she replaced the social officers with military officers, creating the positions of Major, Captain, 1st Lieutenant, and Lieutenant.

Looking for a symbol to represent the organization, Ms. Bowers designed the now much recognized Deer Escort Logo in 1995. Using then Major Dayna White as her model, Ms. Bowers wanted the logo “to be representative of the classic drill team girl and the officer’s salute. It is also representative of the full circle that the girls make through the course of the year, which is why I chose a drill team girl silhouette and not the silhouette of a dancer.”

Although the DPISD will long appreciate Ms. Bowers’ winning teams, she may be best remembered by her dancers as the director who started the Annual Spring Show. The first Spring Show was held on May 5th and 6th, 1995. What began as an annual event designed by Ms. Bowers to showcase the team’s incredible and very diverse dance talents to school mates, families and friends, has grown into the most anticipated Deer Escort activity of the year.
Finally, Ms. Bowers created the annual Deer Escort Banquet. This beautiful and elegant banquet, serves as both a reward to the team members for their year of hard work, sacrifices, dedication, team work and excellence, as well as a platform for honoring the graduating seniors and outstanding team members.

After nine incredible and rewarding years, Ms. Bowers retired as director in May of 2003. She had accomplished all of her goals for the team, including the creation of the Dreamscape Companies, the first three Best in 5A titles, the first two National Championships and two team performances at Walt Disney World, Florida. She had definitely left her mark of excellence on
the team.

The 2003 football season marked the arrival of only the fourth director in the team’s 54 year history, Mrs. Barbie Parker. Mrs. Parker brought with her a lifetime history of winning. She was Colonel of Pasadena High School, where she captured the titles of Miss Drill Team Texas, Miss Half Time Texas, Miss Drill Team USA 2nd runner up and Miss Half Time USA 1st runner up. She moved onto the University of Hawaii where she again excelled as both a dancer and as a choreographer. In 1998, Mrs. Parker became the director of the Friendswood High School Drill Team. At Friendswood, Mrs. Parker’s endless talent, creative choreography and endless hours of dedication to a principle of excellence lead to the Friendswood Drill Team winning the 4A National Championship each of her three years as their director. Wanting to experience a 5A school, Mrs. Parker left FHS in 2001 and became the director of La Porte High school where she stayed for two years. During the summer of 2003, Mrs. Parker was approached about the possibility of directing the Deer Park Escorts! “The honor of working with such a talented group of ladies and unselfishly supportive parents, who all share the same vision” was a dream come true for Mrs. Parker. She is very excited about the endless possibilities she envisions for the team, and “hopes to take the Deer Escorts to even greater heights while cultivating a fun loving family unity for the Deer Escorts and their families”.

In May of 2010 the Deer Escorts announced the newest Director, Sara (Blanchard) Hance. Mrs. Hance was currently serving under Barbie Parker, as the assistant director. Mrs. Hance was a graduate of Friendswood High School where she served as a Junior Line Officer her first year and was Grand Marshall of the Wranglerettes her senior year. Mrs. Hance’s first two years of college were attended at Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas. At Kilgore, she was a member of the world-famous Kilgore College Rangerettes. Mrs. Hance was also a member of the Rangerettes elite dance company, Swingsters, and was chosen both years as a featured soloist for their annual spring show, Revels. After completing two years in Kilgore, Mrs. Hance attended the University of Texas at Austin where she was a member of the UT Pom Squad. While in Austin she performed with Steel Dance Company, an eclectic dance group. After a year in Austin she decided her heart belonged in Houston. She returned home and completed college at the University of Houston receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and Dance.

Although, Mrs. Hance loved the opportunity working beside her high school dance/drill team director, role model and mentor, she was very excited to become the 5th director of the award-winning Deer Escorts and continue the Tradition of Excellence. During this time the Deer Escorts saw the expansion of the team with 2 additional Assistant Directors. Serving alongside Mrs. Hance were 2 remarkable women; Laurie (Bowers) Boren and Sondra Schaaf.The Deer Escorts took their first trip, out of the country, in 2012. They were featured performers aboard the Carnival Cruise Line Triumph, performing a montage of contest season dances and topping it off with a special rendition of Hello Texas; for all of the onboard guests. This was a special opportunity to get the chance to showcase their elite and innovative dances in front of guests from all over the world, in one place.

Believing that education, in the arts, is crucial for academic growth and development, Mrs. Hance advocated for freshman to become members of the Deer Escorts. In 2015, the addition of 9th graders was approved for the 2015-2016 year. This was a very exciting time for the Deer Escorts and for future members to be able to perform and be on the team for all 4 years of their high school career.

With a passion for dance technique, an eye for precision and wanting to produce top-notch routines (through props, choreography, and costuming from head to toe) Mrs. Hance directed the team to numerous choreography, precision, technique and National Ranking awards. Although it was a hard decision, after 9 incredible years with the Deer Escorts, Mrs. Hance retired in May of 2016 to become a stay at home mom.

As many things do in life, the Deer Escort’s have in a sense come full circle since their beginning back in 1950. They now perform their intricate and energetic halftime shows in the stadium named for the man who is responsible for their creation, the Clyde Abshier Stadium.

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