Drum Corps International
Pioneer brings its Irish flair to one of Chicago's most popular St. Patrick's events
Pioneer members line up for the Chicago South Side Irish Parade on Sunday, March 11.

Pioneer brings its Irish flair to one of Chicago's most popular St. Patrick's events

by Chris Weber

Pioneer helped kick off St. Patrick's Day festivities in Chicago on Sunday, marching in the city's South Side Irish Parade.

The annual tradition of the Milwaukee-based ensemble allows corps members, both new and veterans, to suit up in their green, white and orange uniforms and perform in public for the first time of the year.

"Outside of the summer season, the parade is our first exposure to performing for a large group of people," said third-year trumpet player Will Kraus. "We get to try on the uniforms for the first time which is really exciting for a lot of people."

Long known on the Drum Corps International stage for its Irish repertoire and nods to Irish culture, Pioneer has a lengthy history celebrating St. Patrick's Day. The corps has previously marched in parades in Milwaukee and in the Chicago Loop but has gravitated toward Chicago's South Side Irish Parade in recent years as it typically coincides with the schedule of the corps' March rehearsal camp.

Sunday's parade marked the end of a busy weekend for the Pioneer organization. Members arrived in the Milwaukee area Friday evening to work on music to the corps' 2018 production, "Irish Dragons."

"In our afternoon rehearsal block on Saturday we took the last couple hours before it got dark and we actually paraded around the neighborhood," Pioneer drum major Jackie Hirn said. "That was so we could get people used to how we step off, how we roll off, and how the parade command sequence works."

Corps members boarded buses on Sunday morning for an approximately two-hour drive into Chicago. The corps had the honor of bringing up the rear of the parade that featured more than 100 bands, floats and other groups. It is estimated to have been attended by more than 150,000 spectators.

Pioneer will kick off its 2018 summer tour on June 23 in Whitewater, Wisconsin.