Syracuse University Magazine

Twists and Twirls


Since 1947, Orange Girls Have Wowed Fans with their Baton Wizardry

By Christine Yackel

A Syracuse University tradition was born on a crisp autumn afternoon in 1947 when Jessie Ann Harp ’48 entered Archbold Stadium on horseback, twirling her batons alongside the SU Marching Band (SUMB) at the Syracuse-Niagara football game. At that time, the SUMB, which was originally formed in 1901, was all-male. With the addition of Harp, the band soon became known as “100 Men and a Girl,” and from that day forward, 23 “Orange Girls” have twirled their way into the hearts and history of Syracuse University.

Dottie Grover ’53 took up the baton next, earning renown for her twirling theatrics. Her farewell performance with the band was at SU’s first-ever Orange Bowl game on New Year’s Day, 1953. Grover handed the baton twirling duties to SU’s third Orange Girl, Alta Burg ’57, who led the band onto the field at the 1957 Cotton Bowl. From 1957 to 1961, Orange Girl Janet Kay Smith ’61, an international baton twirling champion, dazzled the crowds in Archbold by twirling fire batons. “When the announcers introduced me before a game, they would say, ‘Take it away Janet Kay,’” she says. “Then I would throw my baton over the goal posts and off we went. It was so exciting.”

The 100 Men and a Girl moniker stuck until 1966, when female instrumentalists were finally allowed to play in the marching band. Yet the Orange Girl tradition lives on today with every twist and twirl performed by Meghan Sinisi ’17, a communication sciences and disorders major in the College of Arts and Sciences from Altoona, Pennsylvania. In addition to leading the SUMB onto the football field in the Carrier Dome, Sinisi often performs solo at basketball games and other events in the community, entertaining her audiences by twirling up to three fire batons at once. “I’ve always dreamed of being the sole feature twirler for a major university,” she says. “I enjoy being in the spotlight and showing my Syracuse pride and school spirit by doing what I love.”

At an Orange Girl reunion during Orange Central in October, Sinisi had an opportunity to get together with some of her predecessors, including Janet Kay (Smith) Dean and her husband, John Dean ’59, a former band member. Both depended on scholarship aid to complete their college educations and know firsthand how important financial assistance is to fulfilling dreams. That’s why they established the Janet Kay Smith Feature Twirler Scholarship to support the Orange Girls of the future, and ensure this time-honored tradition will continue for generations to come. “I’m so happy the Deans’ scholarship benefits baton twirlers,” Sinisi says. “It really adds to the prestige of the position, and that’s so cool.”


“When the announcers introduced me before a game, they would say, ‘Take it away Janet Kay.’ Then I would throw my baton over the goal posts and off we went. It was so exciting.” —Orange Girl Janet Kay Smith ’61


Alta Burg ’57

Sinisi.jpgOrange Girl Meghan Sinisi ’17 carries on a twirling legacy.


Dottie Grover ’53

Scholarship Support

To support the Janet Kay Smith Feature Twirler Scholarship or learn more, go to