KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- They're the sound of this city.
The celebrated Marching Cobras Drill Team has been making music at local parades, celebrations and parties for 50 years. Its directors estimate 1,300 musicians have been part of their history.
When you have as much talent as the Cobras do, crowds often gather to watch performances. That was the case on Thursday, as the Cobras marched up Grand Boulevard past Crown Center to what they understood to be just another show.
Instead, on Thursday, the 87-member drill team got a big surprise.
FOX4's Band of Angels stunned the drummers, many of whom are teens, celebrating their golden anniversary.
The Marching Cobras were surprised to find all new drums and percussion equipment awaiting them in a special ceremony.
"I was blessed. I was like, 'Oh my God. Those guys need them so bad,'" Willie Arthur Smith, Marching Cobras founder, told FOX4.
Smith said he founded the Cobras in 1969 as a means of using music to keep kids off the streets.
He said the Cobras' old gear was worn out. Some drums were being held together with thick layers of duct tape. Over the past seven years, the drill team's leaders had managed to piece the crumbling drums together to make them sound good enough.
"We had so many parts that were missing. We have rebuilt those drums, and they're falling apart. None of these kids can really get down. They don't have to worry about them busting or screws dropping out," Smith said.
Marching Cobras Drum Captain Lionell Hamilton, who attends Ruskin High School, said the old drum harnesses had lost their pads, and musicians were getting scratched and bruised as they marched and played.
On Thursday, the Cobras grabbed their new drums immediately, and with a tear of gratitude, tried them out for a fascinated crowd of spectators.
"I didn't know what to say. I was just speechless," Hamilton said. "It was out of the blue. I didn't think anything of it. It came out of nowhere Now, we just keep working hard."
None of it would be possible without Mike Meyer, Band of Angels chairman. Meyer's family operates Meyer Music. Band of Angels was founded 10 years ago to make instruments available to kids who need them.
"This was absolutely the coolest thing we've done so far," Meyer said Thursday. "In a day when we're saying kids don't want to do anything that takes any work, those kids were excited to go back to work and get on those drums."
Meyer estimated $20,000 in drums and music gear was involved in this donation. The Cobras' directors said they're thankful to get it, and thrilled it will allow them to continue to give kids a purpose through music.
"I have more joy in my heart than I've had in a long, long time. It's a great 50th anniversary present for me and the Cobras," Smith said, smiling.
Meyer also hinted there might be future plans for the Marching Cobras' old sets of drums.
He wouldn't elaborate much, but he said the drums are well past their playing days, and he might have creative plans for them to be repurposed.