KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Every summer for the last 57 years, UT's campus briefly holds more batons than people. Kids of all ages come to learn from UT's majorettes at twirling camp.
"It's a combination of so many things," said Head Majorette Abi Long. "Dancing and gymnastics and agility and twirling and hand-eye coordination."
Those are things campers are learning from the pros, and they've traveled to do so. Majorettes from Thomas High School in Alabama stayed on campus for a long weekend to attend twirling camp. They also have some advice on what it takes to twirl.
"You have to like go out and practice at least like three times a week," said Leah.
"You have to have a lot of stamina," said Sarah.
"There's never a stopping point, so there's always something to add," said Katie. "You can always add another spin another illusion."
They're learning those things from the UT majorettes.
"Twirling with majorettes in college and seeing the work they put in and how much they like it makes me, makes us just want to be able to twirl in college," said Alyssa.
Abi Long, who is serving as Head Majorette for the first time this year, remembers what it's like to be in their shoes.
"This camp is so important. It just introduces twirlers to new styles of twirling, and new tricks. It introduces you to the university. That's why I fell in love with UT, coming to this camp," said Abi.
She started twirling at 5 years old and started coming to UT's camp at 7 years old. Abi knew then she wanted to be a majorette for Tennessee.
After 15 years as a camper herself, she said it's surreal to finally make it to the top.
"I'm actually getting emotional," she said. "This has been just such a dream of mine for so long. And it's just so surreal to actually like be the head majorette. Now you get to have these experiences, it's just so overwhelming
It's that love of the sport that keeps her and the other UT majorettes coming back each year.
"Both my mom and my grandma were baton twirlers," said Laney Puhalla, a UT feature twirler.
She and Abbie Hadener will join Abi Long as featured majorettes on the field this year. They said they love getting to coach young campers.
"I like to spread my knowledge of twirling with them and get them to learn how to do some harder, more unique tricks that they might not learn in other places," said Abbie.
"As a coach, you really have to break down the process to them and understand that it takes time to master things," said Laney. "I think that ability to be able to be patient with yourself and the learning process is transitional to life."
If you're interested in baton twirling, UT's 2023 twirling camp is a great place to learn.
"It's never too late. It's never too early," said Abi. "I think everyone that tries it falls in love with it."
The top 10 twirlers from camp will perform with the Pride of the Southland Band at a UT football game this season.
Football season kicks off in Knoxville on Thursday, September 1.