2012-01-05 / Local & State

Mummers Strut In Century-old Parade

By Ron Todt

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Feathers, sequins and costumed performers once again filled Philadelphia’s Broad Street on New Year’s Day, as brigades strut their stuff Sunday to the music of string bands in the 112th Mummers Parade.

Marchers trekked up the wide avenue, stopping occasionally to play music for the thousands who lined the route to enjoy the centuryold tradition, which combines the celebratory practices of immigrant groups that shaped the city.

Parade day was blessed with unusually balmy temperatures in the low 50s and bright sunshine.

Brian and Tracy Rivera of Philadelphia, both 32, arrived hours after the parade began but managed to find a place along the route to pitch some folding chairs for themselves and three facepainted youngsters.

Linda Delfino of Audubon, N.J., said several of her relatives were in the Polish American string band – and they won’t be the last in the family to take part.

The Mummers Parade is believed to be the nation's oldest folk festival. It mixes the immigrant traditions of the Scandinavians who welcomed the new year with gunfire, the English and Welsh who entertained with masquerade plays, and the Germans credited with introducing Santa Claus to their new surroundings.

Black residents arriving after the Civil War added the signature strut along with “Oh! Dem Golden Slippers,” the parade's theme song. The parade became an official city-sponsored event in 1901.

Forced by City Hall construction to change the parade route slightly this year, organizers vowed a more family-friendly event with more bleacher seating and a big screen showing the parade.

Among the throngs, people stood atop low walls or trash containers – or their parents' shoulders – for a better view. Before the arrival of each new club, some dashed out onto the parade route and performed impromptu dances for the cheering crowd. And even when no string bands were near, horns and other noisemakers sold along the route kept up a steady cacophony.

Marchers ended their trek near City Hall where judges were situated to assess three of four divisions.

The most elaborate performances and costumes would be judged at an evening show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Woodland finished first among the string bands, and was followed in the standings by Quaker City, South Philadelphia, Ferko and Fralinger.

Return to top