SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Like a lot of fledgling bands, Classic Reunion started in a garage when drummers just "wanted to jam."
The group was formed in 1989 when a group of drummers from various marching units thought it would be fun to get together and drum again. In 1990, flags and rifles joined forces with the drumline.
This Fourth of July, the group will celebrate its 25th anniversary with one final march in the city's annual parade, Sheboygan Press Media reported (http://shebpr.es/12leWut ).
"We all agreed to come out for one more parade and we'll do it in Sheboygan," director Joel Fischer said. "We have offers coming in all the time to get out all over the state, but we decided to do Sheboygan because that's our hometown."
Today, about 75 percent of the group consists of original members who disbanded from old marching groups, Fischer said. Their average age is about 45. He expects around 150 people to march with drums, rifles and flags on the Fourth. Normally, the group has between 60 to 80 people marching, he said.
"We really owe it to Sheboygan," Fischer said. "What people don't realize is these 25 years go way back with all the old marching groups that people have forgotten about."
The group includes former members of varous marching units, including the Sheboygan Knights, Buccaneers, Accents, Top Hats, Youth Band and Elm's Band as well as the Madison Scouts, La Crosse Blue Stars, Fond du Lac Marquie and Chicago Cavaliers.
Fischer said there were people coming from as far away as Houston to march with the group this year.
He was also part of the effort to have the parade return to its old route on Eighth Street from Center Avenue north to Michigan Avenue and then east to Broughton Drive. The parade has been starting on the corner of Seventh Street and Center Avenue since 1976.
Fischer approached Mayor Mike Vandersteen in April and asked if the route could be moved back to accommodate the group's desire to return the parade to its old route.
"Some of the group members reached out to us and asked if we wouldn't mind moving the parade back to its old roots," Vandersteen said. "I talked to some of the people around the city and it looks like a reasonable thing to do."
Fischer estimated Classic Reunion has participated in a "few hundred" parades over the years, mostly within the state and around Sheboygan County.
He said the group led the last Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee and they have also marched in the Port Washington Fish Day parade, as well as Brat Days in Sheboygan, Falls Fest in Sheboygan Falls and the Kiel Community Picnic parade.
"Really what's stood out to me is the people," Fischer said. "We're not old marchers, we're just family. We all hug, so it's great."
The group began with a handful of drummers like Fischer who just wanted to make noise in a garage.
"Myself and another member were thinking, 'Let's get together as drum lines,'" he said. "Get some guys off to the side at someone's house and we'll just practice and jam as a drum line. So we started putting together this huge drum line for all the groups to come over and we would just jam."
Though this is the group's final scheduled appearance in a parade, Fischer hinted at a possible farewell tour some time in the future.
"I think we may (have a reunion later)," he said. "We might surprise everybody. They're going to say, 'Those are the old guys?' So watch for that."