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Strutting again

After one-year pause, Mummers Parade returns Jan. 1

One of Philadelphia’s longest-running signature events is back, with the Mummers Parade returning to Broad Street on Jan. 1. Beginning at 9am, more than 10,000 paraders will “strut” along the route down Broad Street from City Hall to Washington Avenue, entertaining spectators in-person, on television, and through a live stream. 

The Mummers Parade, which began in 1901, and is the country’s oldest continuous folk parade, will return to action after a pandemic-related “pause” in 2021. The five divisions (Fancy, Wenches, Comics, Fancy Brigades, and String Bands) are bound together by shared values and a legacy from generations of families who have participated throughout the years.

“Last year was undoubtedly difficult for us all – especially the revelers of the Mummers who prepare 364 days a year for this event,” said Jessica Mazzone, a representative for the five divisions and  president of the Comic Division. “We’ve worked hard to incorporate old traditions and introduce new components into the parade and our performances to show our commitment to inclusivity and diversity. We hope that Philadelphia residents – and New Year’s visitors to the city on New Years’ Day – will be proud of this year’s performances.”

 Tom Knight is pictured in 1992 as a Battery. It was his first year with the South Philly Vikings. Image | Courtesy of Tom Knight

Mummers have eagerly been waiting to make their return to Broad Street. Over the last year, local artisans have spent countless hours choreographing performances, designing and sewing together lavish  costumes, and building props. On Jan. 1, Mummers get to share their efforts and rich pageantry with  a nationwide audience.

Visitors who would like to view full live performances will have multiple stops from which to choose along the parade route. The order of the performances will be: Fancy, Wenches, Comics, and String  Bands. Viewing areas will occur at the following locations:

  • North 15th & Market Streets (all divisions perform
  • Broad & Sansom Streets (at the Union League Performance Area – String Bands only)
  • Broad & Pine Streets (Fancy, Wenches, Comics, Fancy Brigades perform)
  • Broad & Carpenter Streets (all divisions perform)

There are also additional ways to view the Mummers Parade. Tickets for the Mummers Parade bleacher seating at the City Hall Stand Performance Zone (15th and Market Streets), and the Fancy Brigade Finale performances (11:30am and 5pm at the Pennsylvania Convention Center) are available for purchase through the Independence Visitor Center Corporation. Tickets may be purchased via phone by calling 800-537-7676; in-person at the Independence Visitor Center (599 Market St.); or online at phlvisitorcenter.com/Mummers.

The official broadcast partner of the Mummers Parade, PHL17, will begin coverage at 8am on  television and streaming live online. The station will have wall-to-wall coverage, with personalities  embedded along the route.

All attendees  and parade participants are asked to follow city and CDC guidelines regarding mask requirements.

PW recently caught up with Tom Knight, president of the Fancy Brigade and the Viking Fancy Brigade Club, to talk about this year’s parade.

 

How excited are the Mummers to be back on Broad Street this New Year’s Day?

We’re so happy to be back on Broad Street this year. We can’t wait to entertain the crowds and bring smiles to the people who will join us in celebrating New Year’s Day.

 

Tell us a little bit about the Fancy Brigades. What are they known for? How many groups are marching? How long does it take to prepare the performance? The costumes? 

The Fancy Brigades are groups that consist of many family members and friends. We are known for putting on a four-and-a-half-minute production show inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This year, we have 12 Fancy Brigades participating in the parade.

We work year-round to bring the best production to viewers. Our Brigades start preparing for next year’s show on Jan. 2. Being a Mummer is a 365 day a year job (minus pay!). It takes months to design, create, and fit the costumes. Many Brigades do all the work in-house; others invite costumers to help.

 

How did the Fancy Brigades start? 

The Fancy Brigades were created in 1940 and were initially known as Groups. The name change from Group to Brigade came in 1947. The Fancy Brigades were part of the Fancy Division until 1978. Then the Brigades started with their division known as the Fancy Brigade Association.

 

Where do you get inspiration for the theme? What is the name of your club, what is your title there, and where did this year’s inspiration come from? 

Each Brigade has a costume/theme committee that comes up with a theme and idea. Most of the time, suggestions come from members or relatives.

I am in the South Philly Vikings N.Y.B. and have been president for 12 years. This year’s theme was developed and brought to life by our captain, Louie Castelli. The idea has been with our costume/theme committee for a few years now, and we thought it would be a perfect year to use this theme. That’s all I can say without ruining the surprise! Our Brigade has over 93 people dressing and performing this year, the largest group we’ve ever had.

What is your favorite part about the parade?

My favorite part of the parade is when all Mummers are getting ready on New Year’s Day, and you see someone from another club and wish them a Happy New Year and good luck for the day. Those moments show that we only are competitors for a short time; the rest of the time, we’re just one big community!

 The South Philly Vikings won second place in 2011 for their Your Wish is My Command entry. Image | Courtesy of Tom Knight

 

Are there any changes to this year’s parade, especially any that are prompted by pandemic rules and restrictions?

Yes, the five Mummers Divisions in the parade have been meeting with the city the last few months to ensure that we follow all CDC guidelines and help keep everyone safe.

 

How did the South Philly Vikings prepare for this year’s parade? 

We spent the last year fundraising for our costumes and decorations. Then we had to create those pieces, and now we’re rehearsing and getting ready for the big day. Also, every year, we hold various annual fundraising and charity drives.

 

The Mummers have had their share of controversy in the past, especially when it comes to inclusivity and diversity. How are the Mummers addressing these issues?

With the help of the City of Philadelphia’s Recreation Department, an online Inclusion and Diversity class was created to address the problems that have occurred in the past. All 10,000 Mummers must take this class to participate in the 2022 New Years Day Parade.

Our division presidents have spent the last two years working as one team. We are here to entertain; we are performers. We want to bring a family-friendly, fun parade to Philadelphia. As Mummers and entertainers, we want everyone to feel welcome and to enjoy the parade.

 

In addition to the parade and other festivities, there is a charitable aspect to the Mummers. Can you talk a little about some of the fundraisers and campaigns you’re involved in? 

We have Brigades that work with the Ronald McDonald House, The Gift of Life House, we do a turkey drive for Thanksgiving, we do many toy drives for Christmas, and we also have a huge food drive for our veterans named after one of our deceased Mummer’s, Franny McIntyre Sr.

What are the best ways for people to learn more about the route, performances, tickets, etc., for this year’s parade?

Head to phlvisitorcenter.com/Mummers.

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