DCA I&E/Mini-Corps 20 Years And Growing
Twenty-one years ago behind corps buses in Hershey, PA after DCA Prelims two drummers, who were students of Jim Hurley, had a drum down. Jim Hurley was then the DCA percussion caption Chief and, not wanting to judge them alone, had Dick Pronti, DCA judge coordinator, judge the two young percussionists with him. Of course, the two were immediately tied as was the Championship that year. This was the birth of an idea.
The first DCA I&E Championships were held the following year, 1989, at Allentown High School. There were about 50 contestants who all performed on the same stage. One of the highlights of the evening was John “CupCakes” Curran setting his beer down and saying, I can play better than that." He paid his two dollars entry fee and the audience heard his rendition of “Magnificent 7”.
Each year, the I&E show grew and grew. Different venues where pursued. One the venues was actually the sidewalks of Allentown. This is where Joey Pero first made his I&E entrance. He played a selection called “Napoli”, which turned out to be a melody of Kiltie travel songs. The Kilties started singing along. What could Joey do? He lowered his horn and conducted the Kilties. When they finished, he put his horn up and finished, himself.
In 1993 Donna Ernst, Shoe Chairman Dick Pronti’s Sister-in-law was appointed to run the I&E. Donna and her husband Norm, along with New York Federation President Tom Argy, had been Dick’s right and left arms. They had helped run the show from year one as volunteers. Indeed, the I&E/Mini Corps Competition has always been run by an army of volunteers. As the I&E show grew. Donna had to make a decision about the size of ensembles. The “Mini Corps” was born. Donna was indeed the Mother of the Mini Corps movement. I can still see the Thunderbirds standing on the side of a ski slope in Scranton (in the dark) receiving a score of 105. In Syracuse, in a beautiful convention center, The Golden Eagles made their appearance with a few extra people. The crowd, encouraged by Frank Ponzo, cheered wildly for the judges to judge them and made them do an encore. Donna lost a long fight with cancer, but every year, when the Mini Corps perform those who knew her have a tear in their eye and a smile on their face for the idea she had brought to us.
Through the years, the I&E show has become the world’s greatest Drum Corps Street party. Who can forget, Crunchy Frog, The Three Sopranos, Cozy’s many performances in many uniforms, exhibitions by the Guelph Royalaires and the Chicago Royalaires.
The DCA I&E is alive and well. Last year, there were 7 Venues running between the downtown Clarion Hotel, now the Ramada Inn Riverside, and The Rochester Riverside Convention Center. The evening Culminated with the Mini Corps performing before over 2500 people in the Grand ballroom Convention Center.
Whether you perform or watch, be sure to be in Rochester at the DCA’s I&E twentieth anniversary championship. Join us Friday Night of DCA Weekend (Sept 4, 2009) at 5:30 PM. For further information, go to: www.dcacorps.org or email Dick Pronti, Chairman at Rap48 [at] aol [dot] com.