DCA Says . . . Make Plans, Pronti!

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More and more drum corps fans are arriving to the Drum Corps Associates World Championships host city a few days earlier than before. Is it to allow time to explore more local museums, for extra shopping, or for a visit to the zoo? Sure, but there’s more . . .

An entertaining, new Friday night drum corps “Happy Hour” has emerged as one of DCA’s premier weekend attractions. The DCA Individual, Ensemble, and Mini-Corps Competition, presented by A.J. Wright, has become a highly popular way to begin all-age drum corps’ biggest traveling extravaganza. Now involving thousands of participants and spectators, in a high energy display of musical talent, I&E, as it’s called, has become THE place to be before getting down to weekend business at the stadium.

From a humble beginning in 1989, as an informal “dueling drums “ smackdown featuring just two entrants, one judge, and no audience, all-age performers continue to embrace the idea of getting together in friendly competition in a casual setting before the big show that follows.

It’s a completely different atmosphere than found at the more rigid and intense DCA World Championship stadium performances. This is an opportunity to meet new friends, appreciate their talent, and to pay respect to legends of this activity who return each year making this night an emotional evening for many.

Richard “Dick” Pronti, founder, and now co-chairman for DCA’s I&E committee (explains the title of this article) spoke about an early “behind the bus” event he witnessed and all that followed. “Bob Hurley was DCA Percussion Caption Chief, and I was the DCA Judging Coordinator that year,” Pronti explained. “Two kids from different competing corps wanted to determine who was the better player. Bob agreed to meet them after Prelims, adjudicated a tie (what else?) and the rest was history as they say.

We discussed the concept and how it would benefit DCA for the following year. The first official DCA I&E was presented at the Allentown High School Auditorium. Tom Argy from the New York State Federation of Judges and friends Donna Ernst and Norm Schaefer were my committee.”

“We had about fifty contestants registered,” said Pronti. “Spectators were charged $2 to help pay for the school. On the night of the contest some people came out of the crowd and asked to perform, and we allowed them to play! By the end of the night we had at least 70 contestants. Spectators and judges loved the show. We knew whenever DCA negotiates with a new host city, I&E venues need to be part of the package. We also realized our registration process needed to be improved and we recognized interest in adding new categories for performers. Still, a great start!”

Pronti believes the event’s biggest new addition was added in 1993. “ Donna Ernst had taken on the chairperson’s position. It was Donna who began our Mini-Corps contest”, he said. “Possibly I&E’s most popular component, the Mini-Corps show is a huge fan favorite, drawing an audience approaching 3,000 in Scranton last year. Mini-Corps are ensemble groups having any combination of drums, brass, and guard, up to a 21 person limit. We can schedule about a dozen groups per year. The Mini-Corps sometimes use a mixture of performers from several different all-age corps. They present 5-10 minute shows. Although there is some serious musical ability on display, it’s really all about entertainment and fun. Costuming and performer antics sometimes take on a Ringling Bros. feel as displayed by our lively West Coast friends, Crunchy Frog.”

Mini-Corps is DCA I&E’s concluding show. It can require a good sized venue and has sometimes been held outdoors. This event always generates the night’s biggest audience reaction.

Gil Silva, President of Drum Corps Associates, sees I&E as an important part of the DCA Championship experience for all-age enthusiasts. “It’s become a huge social event for everyone,” he explained. “To meet friends, new fans, and fellow competitors in a relaxed block-party atmosphere, all while enjoying so many talented performances, makes a special evening for everyone.”

“I&E adds much to DCA’s philosophy of entertainment through excellence,” said Silva. “We encourage everyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to experience I&E to join us this year in downtown Rochester. It’s a really good time”!

The task of staging the I&E event becomes more challenging each year. With hundreds of registrations expected this year, the I&E committee has grown to meet the task. Mr. Pronti relies heavily upon co-chairperson Barbara Haring to bring everything together seamlessly. Barb, wife of popular DCA announcer Fran Haring, devotes several months per year to this project. “ It’s a big task, but fun,” she said. “Scheduling performers and judges, coordinating insurance coverages and performance rights takes some time. We rely heavily upon a dedicated group of volunteers. Last year, about 30 people worked for us at 6 different venues. It’s a long night for sure, but most of our team has been with us since the beginning,” she beamed. “There’s a lot going on simultaneously at I&E. It’s really impossible for anyone to witness all of it. Timing is very important to me. We need to get everyone in and out by the time Mini-Corps take the stage.”

Performing at DCA I&E is not limited to just DCA members and affiliates. Anyone who is marching, or has marched, in any circuit is welcome to join in.. Ther are rules and regulations to be followed, however. Registration is already underway for 2006, and will remain open until all spots are filled, or until August 19. For complete details on this, visit www.dcacorps.org. Follow the I&E event links to download.

Individual category winners receive a championship medal. Those who take First Place among several entrants can win the World Champion designation for this event. Mini-Corps receive both the medals and the chance to take home the Donna Ernst Memorial Trophy, presented for the first time in 2005.

All judging is done by professionals on the approved DCA judges roster.

For 2006, DCA will use both the Riverside Convention Center and connected Clarion Hotel downtown. Depending upon the weather, some of the action will take place outdoors on Broad Street. This main downtown thoroughfare is being closed Friday night to accommodate DCA and its fans.

“We think we have our best venues ever for DCA I&E this year. The City of Rochester, the Convention Center and Clarion Hotel people have been very willing to help DCA in any way,” said Pronti. “Numerous concession stands will be available to us, both indoors and out, featuring food and beverage choices appealing to all-age drum corps.”

“This will be one big tailgate party,” explained Pronti. “With five corps staying at the Clarion and hundreds of fans at two other hotels within easy walking distance, DCA is expecting a tremendous response in Rochester. Should be our best I&E ever.”

Fred Windish, DCA’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations, understands the value of the I&E event. “This is an incredible marketing tool for us,” he said. “Not only will local media have easy access to what we do, but our performers will be cranking-it-up just in time for live remotes during the evening news. More importantly, local residents get a chance to try our product in a fun and exciting family atmosphere accessible to everyone. There is no admission charge at any DCA I&E venue.”

Doing the A.J. Wright DCA Championships is much more than stadium events at PAETEC Park. There’s good reason to arrive in Rochester early and SEE IT ALL!

For more information visit dcacorps.org.

Posted by on Tuesday, June 6th, 2006. Filed under DCA ... All-Age, All-Good!.