by Bill Flaker, DCW staff
This article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of Drum Corps World.
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Many of us have a favorite sports announcer or a favorite radio personality so, I am sure that most all the fans who attend drum corps events would put Fran Haring at or near the top of their list.
Fran’s older brothers, Lenny and Marty, joined a local junior corps, the Raiders of 88, in 1967. The corps was sponsored by American Legion Post 88 in Highland Park, NJ, which was one town over from their home in Edison.
Fran went to several shows that summer to watch the corps compete in the old Garden State Circuit, in its first and (as it turned out) only season on the field. He joined the Raiders in the fall of 1967 as a French horn player, but the corps disbanded a few months later.
The Haring brothers then joined the Little Falls Cadets junior corps in Northern New Jersey, but the hour-long trip to rehearsals proved to be a bit much for nine-year-old Fran, so he left the corps before the 1968 competition season began.
Brother Lenny joined the Sacred Heart Crusaders from Manville, NJ, for the 1969 season and Fran joined in 1971. From 1971 to 1976 he marched six seasons with the New Jersey corps and then six seasons with the Long Island Sunrisers senior corps. One of the reasons he joined the Sunrisers was that the corps was bringing back French horns for the 1977 season.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time. The Sunrisers won the DCA World Championship in 1977, Fran’s first, then two more titles in 1978 and 1982. The summer of 1977 was a magical one for Fran as he came from a struggling junior corps to a corps that captured a world title.
During his marching days, Fran thought it would be cool to announce drum corps shows. His favorite PA announcer during that time (and in his opinion, to this day the best in the history of drum corps) was the legendary Wes Hobby. Fran emceed one of the Sunrisers’ indoor concerts while he was still with the corps.
After several months from his final season with Sun, he sent a letter to Fred Windish, the chairman of the local organizing committee for the DCA Championship in Allentown, PA, asking if he could be the announcer for the 1983 championship. Fran figured he had a slim chance at this, but Fred took him up on his offer!
Fran also had a great deal of help from Nick Yaworski, who was a member of the DCA Executive Committee at that time. Nick lobbied DCA President Mickey Petrone and persuaded him to give Fran a chance.
Before the championship in 1983, he co-announced the Sunrisers’ outdoor show with John Hodge, a fellow Sunriser. The Bushwackers then hired Fran to announce the “National Dream” contest, which the Bushwackers were running that summer in Bayonne, NJ. That show began the “solo” announcing career for the familiar voice of DCA.
“The main objective in announcing is to stay out of the way and not say anything stupid,” Fran states. However, things do happen along the way during a live performance. He firmly believes that the shows are all about the drum corps and not the announcer, but to have some fun and add a bit of entertainment for the fans.
His most memorable drum corps moment happened in 2005 during DCA Prelims when Joel “Lothar” Magnuson of the Racine Kilties collapsed and died on the field during the corps’ performance. The unbelievable rush of emotions that everyone who was there felt — and how the Kilties managed to regroup and come back to perform again that evening after that tragedy — was truly one for the ages.
On to a lighter subject, in the early 2000s, Chris Bauer, percussion instructor for the Hawthorne Caballeros, wore some of the wildest and tackiest Hawaiian shirts Fran had ever seen. Chris, along with Al Katz of the Cabs and Vic Kulinski of Heat Wave, have also been known to sport some loud shirts.
This became Fran’s inspiration to find some of those shirts for his own collection which he still wears to this day at DCA shows.
Fran is encouraged by the growth of DCA with new corps growing all over our country and feels that some day the DCA Championship will need to move out of the Northeast to add to and strengthen its fan base. Growth is good but steady, careful growth is a better idea in the long run.
The Class A movement in DCA has been a terrific thing as they now have an opportunity to compete against corps their size, make Class A finals and possibly win their own championship. It also provides an opportunity for an up-and-coming corps to get their feet wet in Class A before moving up to Open Class as Alliance and Music City Legend have done.
When it comes to alumni corps, Fran feels that any bad blood that exists between them and the all-age competing corps can be overcome. The alumni corps give all of us a chance to see how drum corps was done “back in the day.” They are basically a living history lesson, a lot of fun to watch and the “Alumni Spectacular” show has been a welcome addition to the DCA Championship weekend.
The Hawthorne Caballero organization is the model for how an alumni and competing corps can work together to ensure the growth, success and legecy of their organization.
Much credit has to be given to all the competing corps of DCA for still being able to put a great product on the field despite all the economic obstacles and time limitations.
Fran started writing for Drum Corps World in 1983 and his favorite assignment was a behind the scenes feature in the spring of 2002 on the Westshoremen Alumni corps, reporting on the day of the first performance at “Serenade in Brass” in Harrisburg, PA.
Barbara Haring, Fran’s wife, was part of that group and was a charter member of the Westshoremen Alumni in 2002. She marched in the color guard with the Yankee Rebels/South Wind all-age corps from Baltimore, MD, for the 1977 season, then with Westshoremen from 1978 to 1981 as a mallet player.
Barbara got involved through her mom and dad, Fred and Lillian Mowbray. Fred was a writer for Drum Corps News and Drum Corps World.
After longtime DCA I&E Coordinator Donna Ernst passed away following the 2004 season, she volunteered to help I&E founder Dick Pronti in his new role as I&E coordinator. She handled the mini-corps scheduling in 2005, 2006 and up until she took ill in the summer of 2007.
Fran and Barbara met (where else) at a drum corps show, the 1988 DCA Championship in Hershey, PA. They reunited again in 1989 at finals in Allentown, got engaged in September 1990 and were married in April 1991.
As many of you know, Barbara suffered a major stroke in July 2007 and faces a long road of rehabilitation. Fran and Barbara send a huge thank you to all the folks involved with DCA, from management, to the members and staffs of the corps, to the fans who have gone out of their way to welcome them and offer their help and encouragement at the shows they have attended since Barbara took ill.
Many of us have heard the phrase “drum corps is one big family.” If Fran and Barbara didn’t know this to be true before July 2007, they certainly know it now!
When not doing drum corps, Fran roots for the Mets, Jets and Nets in their respective sports, as well as the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles. He prefers college to pro football and follows Texas, Rutgers and Alabama. He loves watching pro golf and tried his hand at the sport for a while, shooting a 75 in his first time out. He then realized he had nine more holes to go!
Fran is a member of a Toastmasters public speaking club in the Baltimore area and highly recommends joining a local club to anyone who wants to polish their speaking and presentation skills or overcome a fear of speaking in public.
It has been an extreme pleasure to bring you this article on one of DCA’s best-kept secrets. Many of us know Fran from talking with him at the shows we attend. It always amazes me how many people he knows and always knows their names.
If Fran were to ever run for political office, I am certain he would win in a landslide.