A Prideful History

Pride is synonymous with century-old Hobo Day Parade

It was 1966 and the SDSU marching band had just completed its halftime show. History was about to be made.

Public address announcer Craig McNamara leaned forward in the press box at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium and uttered a phrase that went something like, “Let’s give a big thank you to the SDSU band, the Pride of the Dakotas.”

Although contact with McNamara has been lost in the ensuing years, the incident remains alive for former band director John Colson.

“It was a last moment thing,” he recalls. “We just finished and he wanted to say something about the Dakotas in a larger context. The name stuck during the next few years and eventually became official after that.”

McNamara likely wanted to emphasize a point that all of us, past and present, have known for a very long time: that the Pride of the Dakotas Marching Band is one of the best in the region, if not the entire nation.

There have been many prideful moments in what is the marching band’s 110th anniversary of its first formal concert performance in 1902.

Among all the venues in which the Pride has performed, perhaps the marching band is best associated with the Hobo Day Parade, which is celebrating its own special anniversary: 100 years since the first march down the streets of Brookings in honor of SDSU’s homecoming celebration.

Billed as the biggest one-day event in the Dakotas, the parade and the Pride are synonymous — one wouldn’t be the same without the other.

“The Hobo Day Parade, without a doubt, is a very big event for us,” says SDSU Director of Athletic Bands Jim Coull. “The kids really get fired up about it.

“I had a meeting with the band members at the end of April about the upcoming season, and when I told them about the 100th anniversary of the first Hobo Day Parade, it generated a big round of applause.”

Best time of year

Leading off the parade is a tradition that all band members look forward to with the crowd lining the parade route anxiously anticipating the approaching beat of drums and instruments.

Just like what was reported in the 1939 Jackrabbit yearbook, “State’s crack 140-piece military band led the mile-long Hobo Day Parade,” the most visible component of the SDSU Music Department makes the parade the great event that it is and always has been.

“We always work our hardest once Hobo Day rolls around,” says Jamie Werner, a junior trombone player from Redfield. “For us it’s the most exciting time of the season. We put on our best show because we know there will be a lot of people.”

The music education major said a common tradition for the trombone section is to split and run to the front, and there are different twists like marching backward while playing.

While band members can be heard echoing certain chants throughout their performance, the well-defined, “Who are we? We are the Pride,” speaks to the Pride’s rich history. “We’re saying we are the Pride, we are here,” says Werner.

National exposure

Consistently ranging between 225 and 250 members — once numbering as high as 400 strong — the marching band certainly makes its presence felt.

Along with performing during halftime of all home Jackrabbit football games, the Pride has toured the Upper Midwest as featured halftime entertainment for the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and the Winnipeg Blue Bomber football games. Guest performances at high school marching band competitions include the tri-state competition in Luverne, Minn., and the Festival of Bands in Sioux Falls.

The pride has marched in two presidential inauguration parades, the Millennium National Independence Day Parade and was featured in the 2000 Public Broadcasting System’s production of “A Capitol Fourth.”

The band has received letters of recognition and congratulations from national entertainers, and all the way up to governors and presidents of the United States.

More recently, the band has twice marched in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., and last year went to Orlando, Fla., for the Fresh from Florida Parade.

Students deliver tradition

High-level performances have been going on for a long time in the band’s storied history.

Going as far back as 1904, the band participated in the World’s Fair in St. Louis. By 1906, the band was performing its annual concert during each winter term and began making short tours. One year later, director Francis Haynes created music to accompany the words of SDSU’s school song, “The Yellow and Blue.”

The band was appearing regularly at home football games in 1916 and other athletic competitions as an “indispensable organizer of school spirit.” The military band, as it was known then, embarked on its first-ever concert tour of South Dakota with five of the nine concerts taking place in the Black Hills.

In 1939, the band gained international recognition under legendary director Carl Christensen when it played for British King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in Winnipeg, Canada. The band was awarded first prize as the best marching band in the field of 18.

Christensen became one of the most reputable college bandmasters in the United States. He joined the faculty in 1906 and served 43 years as bandmaster — from 1911 to 1954.

While each director gives a certain dose of their own personality into the band, the students themselves have consistently lived up to the band’s billing because they know what’s at stake, according to Coull, who notes that the directors through the years have basically given the same pep talk in the first meeting of the year.

“We tell them that the Pride has always had very high energy, exciting performances and that we expect them to maintain that tradition,” says Coull, who was a Pride member himself from 1973 to 1975.

“There have been changes in directors, but the students never change their enthusiasm and excitement. That has been the primary factor and why the Pride has been so well received during the years.”

 Kyle Johnson

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