Mum Time

Ten thousand Mummers are ready to hit Broad Street for the annual Philadelphia Mummers Parade!  The formal parade started in 1901.  01/01/11 is upon us.  It’s Mum Time.  Coverage on PHL17 begins at 9 a.m. The first Comics will hit City Hall sometime after 10 a.m. I will announce the major winners on the 10 pm. and 11 p.m. newscasts on PHL17 and NBC10.  Members of clubs across 5 Divisions are poised to strut. Murray Comic Club is leading off, followed by Goodtimers and Landi.  I see some great themes this year, some of them topical, of course.  You can bet the economy is one.  Thanks to Murray for all they do for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. After the Comics comes the large Wench Brigade Division.  8 clubs take part, led by Oregon this year.

 The Fancy Division sees two legendary clubs, Hog Island and Golden Sunrise. 

Kenny Medeiros

2010 winning Captain Kenny Medeiros, of  Hog Island, is doing a 1950′s theme.  The Hogs are bringing it.  So, too, is Matt Glovacz, Captain of Golden Sunrise, who will serve us a “Hawaiian Luau.”  GS’s John Lucas took me on a tour of the suits this year and there are some great ones, many of which he built.

John Lucas

“Handsome costume. That is the toughest category there is on the street,” says John Lucas. I especially like the tribute to the late Jim Happold. Golden Sunrise is bringing back “Putting on the Ritz,” the suit Hap wore as GS started. The Fancies continue the tradition of beauty on Broad Street with explosions of color and majesty. These works of art are made by hand and are not the product of a big factory making blow up cartoon figures.  This is unique.

 The awesome string bands are particularly interesting this year because of the order of march and some rules changes in the judging which may or may not have effect. In essence, the judges will reward a little more the effect of the music and costumes. Previously, music playing had an edge over effect and some folks felt the richer bands who spent more on costuming might have had an unfair advantage. Fralinger is going up Broad Street in 2nd, behind Pennsport. I’ve seen their performance and if anyone can ake First Prize from 2nd position, the mighty Fralinger can do it. But, I’ve seen many other challengers who also look strong. 

Denny Palandro

South Philadelphia Captain Denny Palandro says,”We’re doing a showboat theme this year.  Our forte is props. We’re going to have the props to go with this theme. The costumes are beautiful. The music, we stepped it up a notch.”

Quaker City String Band has a truly entertaining theme and its musicians sound great.  All I’m going to say is keep an eye on Captain Charlie Roetz. 

Anthony Celenza

Ferko String Band is looking to move up a notch to number one from last year.  They think they’ve put the final pieces together in their gold rush/prospecting theme.  Says Captain Anthony Celenza,  “We’re stakin’ a claim for 2011 and we’re goin for the gold.”  I’ve seen Polish American looking to combine the crowd pleasing aspects of last year (They were the 1st Prize winners of the Viewer’s Choice Award.) with more power.  Go down the ilist and you’ll see outstanding performances, including Avalon, Woodland and more. 

“Pete D’Amato, Captain of 2010 1st Prize winner South Philly Vikings says, “We’re looking forward to getting out there. to getting with the people, letting everybody see what we do, the whole fancy brigade and having a good time.”  9 other Fancy Brigades also look to do the same and challenge Pete and his brigade at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

As I mentioned, the annual parade formally began in 1901, but the tradition dates back to the 17th century.  At its heart, Mummery is a “crazy hobby,” a way to celebrate the New Year. But, it’s become much more than that. It is a family glue, a bond in neighborhoods, a city’s goodwill ambassadorship, an economic contributor and a tourist attraction.  Some Mummers clubs spend well over 100,000 dollars to entertain on New Year’s Day.  For the third year in a row, they do so without getting any prize money from the city.  I mention this because there have been inaccurate reports to the contrary.  By the way, the prize money originated more than 100 years ago as a way of enticing the Mummers, who had been parading on their own, to agree to be run or organized on New Year’s Day by the city. All that leaves a Mummers mind in the hours ahead.  New Year’s is upon us. Enjoy the spectacle! Enjoy the feast!  It’s Mum time.


Here’s an update on where to find the Mummers on TV on January 1, 2011.  The number one place and only place for guaranteed coverage of all the divisions is PHl17.  Coverage begins at 9 a.m. and runs through the outdoor parade which could end around 4:30 or 5 p.m. and then picks up again at 8 p.m. with the indoor performance of the Fancy Brigades.  Even if you go to the parade, you can leave your tv on as a show of support for the Mummers.

Here’s what’s available for folks living outside the PHl17 viewing area.  There is no, there will be no coverage on WGN America on January 1 or any other day.  There is no, there will be no streaming of the parade on the internet.  However, will be posting hundreds of photos and some videos as quickly as possible throughout the parade. That’s

There are 3 other tv markets in the nation that will provide at least some coverage of the parade.

New York: WPIX – will carry 2 hours on over the air channel 11.2, “THIS TV.” Check local listings for which hours and if NYC area cable/satellite has this same 11.2 coverage on a different channel number.

Washington, D.C.:  WDCW – will carry the parade on their primary station from 2p – 5p, and may carry the full parade on “THIS TV.”  Again check local listings day of the parade.

York, Lebanon, Lancaster, Harrisburg:  WPMT – will air the full parade, 10a-5p on over the air channel 43.2.  Check cable/satellite listings for the different channel numbers for WPMT.

Scheming and Theme-ing

When the 2011 Mummers Parade hits the street this weekend, you will be entertained from the Old World to the New World, from young clubs to old timers.  Murray Comic Club leads us off in its 75th year strutting up Broad Street.   The Comics can be quite topical.  I won’t  give it away, so I’ll just say that Murray Captain Dennis Pellegrino may have the pulse of these economic times when he kicks off the 2011 parade.  Landi Captain Rob Sojkowski plans to get topical, too.      (All the photos in this story are from unrelated performances in the 2010 parade.)

The Fancies will wow us with the beauty of frame suits and the exotic themes of King Clown, King Jockey, Handsome Trim and Handsome Costume. Captain Matt Glovacz, of Golden Sunrise Fancy Club, is going to warm us up with his presentation.  (I caught a glimpse.)  Matt is also taking part in his 3oth parade with Golden Sunrise.  Captain Kenny Medeiros, of Hog Island, is going to get your feet tapping. (I caught a glimpse here, too!)

I can tell you the String Band theme titles.  Pennsport kicks off this division with “Pennsport: Marching to Our Own Beat.”  Fralinger is “At the Golden Gate of Kiev.” Woodland presents “Gator Done!-Bayou Style.” The Peter A. Broomall String Band is “Different Strokes for Different Folks.”  South Philadelphia is “No Boat Like Showboat.” Durning is “Irish You A Merry Christmas.” Greater Kensington is “The ROAR-ing 20s.”  Aqua is “Aqua Has A Peel!” Polish American is “Shipwrecked.” The Original Trilby String Band performs “Mumtoberfest.” Uptown is “Shake, Rattle and Casserole.” Hegeman is “Hegeman SPURS up trouble!” Duffy does “Back on Track.”  Quaker City performs “My Kind of Clown.” Avalon is “Holiday in Havana.” Greater Overbrook does “The Sidewalks of New York.” Ferko String Band is “Ferko Stakes Their Claim!”

And that’s the outdoor parade.  The Fancy Brigades will thank the crowd as they march up to Broad to Washington before they have turn off to get ready for the big indoor show.  They will do their presentations with props and full costuming only  indoors at the PA Convention Center.  The latest word on their themes, tomorrow.

The Strut

Thousands and thousands of Philadelphians will be strutting in the New Year this weekend.    The beauty of The Strut is that anyone can do it.  I think even Elaine of Seinfeld might have had a shot.  It’s a simple dance full of pleasure.  It moves you around your friends and moves you playfully along the road you’re on. It can be done easily and smoothly, or with a frenetic energy and passion. One hand should hold an umbrella and pump it with the music.  If you don’t have an umbrella, you can pump two fingers in the air for 2 Street, Philadelphia’s Mummers Row. The other arm and hand can either hold open a jacket or slightly lift a skirt. Ideally, The Strut involves moving both of your legs and feet in a back and forth and criss-cross fashion.  You may shift from side to side.  You can shuffle easily or kick up a heel.  A Broad Street sized smile is required all the while.  The Strut is felt best when “Oh  Dem Golden Slippers” or “Alabama Jubilee” is playing loudly around you.  It’s proof that a good thing will last. Strutting takes a little longer than marching or walking.  But, life doesn’t move in a straight line.  Maybe that’s why there’s The Strut.

The D in Dana

Dana Theil

You could certainly say that the D in Dana Theil stands for dance. Dana is co-director of the Pennsport School of Dance in South Philadelphia.  Her philosophy is straight forward: Have fun and, says Dana, “You’ve got to put on the best show that you can with what you have and that’s all I try to do.”  That just begins to describe the mother of 4 that so many Mummers appreciate.  Dana is the long-time choreographer of Fralinger String Band, which has won 8 First Prizes in a row. A piece of each of those prizes belongs to her.  While Fralinger is known for doing everything well, especially music, what often gets lost to observers is that while they are playing, they are often dancing.  In addition, the dancers and the captain must be among the best or first prize is out of reach for the band.  Current Fralinger Captain Thomas D’Amore won First Prize his first year as Captain under Dana’s guidance.  He says her personality, she easily gets along with everyone, helps her communicate with dozens of string band members.  Dana is also from a family of Mummers.  Many of those closest to her are connected to the Fancy Brigade, Jokers NYA.  Former Fralinger Captain Bill Bowen, Jr., says “I think she can look at a package and whatever production is being done that particular year, not only in dance but in band movement,” and help form the whole 4 and a half minute show.  Bill spotted Dana’s talent when she was a teenager.  In the first year he took her advice, he won First Prize.  Bill would go on to become the winningest captain on Broad Street.  This year Dana is once again offering her expertise to Fralinger, but she is also assisting Ferko String Band and Avalon String Band. Both bands know they are in great hands. Ferko Captain Anthony Celenza, for example, tells me, “”We’re hoping that she can be the good luck charm as she has with some of the groups she’s worked over the past.” Ms. Theil’s accomplishments are even more impressive when you realize that she is getting everyday working people, blue and white collar workers, not professional dancers, to dance well. Dana admits that is “the tricky part.” Her dedication and patience make it happen.  But that’s Dana, and not just with Mummers.  I also saw that genuine appreciation on display when I witnessed her working with little kids getting ready to put on a Christmas recital. Dana says, “Dancing to me is a release almost. I can be in the worst mood, sad, depressed about anything, but once I get into the studio and just start teaching and they (the kids) start making me laugh, it just brings a smile to my face. You know, that’s my whole life.”  The D in Dana can stand for dance.  But, it also stands for D-elightful, D-edicated, in D-emand, and D-ynamite.  Dana Theil is one more reason to love the Mummers.


Merry Christmas!   There are many reminders of what the true meaning of Christmas is, many events and people who in an instant capture what is important.  I had another such moment when I was in Feasterville, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, when Airman First Class Ed Armstrong, Jr., came home unexpectedly for the holidays.  His, dad, Ed, Sr., picked him up at the airport.  His sister, Samantha, and a few other relatives and friends were made aware that he was coming home.  But, they did not tell his mother. Donna was sad because her son had to be so far away during the holidays.  Ed, Jr. and everyone  decided to surprise Donna.  There was a knock on the door.  Donna gets up from the family room chair to answer it.  It’s Eddie.  Lots of hugs, tears and smiles dominated the next few minutes.  Okay, hours.  Ed Armstrong, Jr., is home from his Air Force duties. He’ll even get to march with his Dad in the annual Philadelphia Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day. Both are in Uptown String Band.  The deployments of 2011 are kept as far out of mind as possible. Today, the Armstrongs are enjoying a family Christmas. That is something that many U.S. servicemen and women are not enjoying.  It is tough on them, but it is also rough, perhaps even rougher, on the mothers and fathers and siblings and sons and daughters who do not have their loved one home.  To the men and women in the Armed Forces, thank you for serving.  And to all, please remember them this day, and enjoy the family, friends and true meaning of Christmas found in them.

Parade Friendly

The upcoming Mummers Parade may be more fan friendly than in recent years.  Efforts are well underway to make it so.  Mayor Michael Nutter, Congressman Bob Brady, representatives of the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Mummers today formally announced new drill locations and expanded activities and amenities at locations along the route. The biggest addition is the return of the performance area at Broad and Pine.  Standing at that corner, outside the University of the Arts, Mayor Nutter called the parade, “A fun time.” The Mayor added, “It’s a great opportunity.  It just gets better.”  He also said the Mummers deserve our thanks for hanging in there through the financial pressures the city has experienced and for the Mummers’ efforts to defray city costs.  He also acknowledged the philanthropists who have stepped up as part of the effort. Congressman Bob Brady, who played a key role in establishing the Philadelphia Traditions Fund, which will pay much of the costs of 10 parades, including the Mummers, for the next few years, expressed his appreciation for the cooperation of the city and in its moving to making the parade “really enjoyable.”  He also suggested that he and the Mayor work on getting back to the city the “Show of Shows,” which has been taking place in recent years each February in Atlantic City.  If a return to Philadelphia happens, it would likely be in 2012. The “Show” has already been booked for 2011 in AC.

The parade route performance areas, or zones, will be at Broad and Shunk, Broad and Wolf, Broad and Washington, Broad and Pine and the main judging area, 15th and Market.  Some of these locations will have dj’s.  City officials say families can “warm up and enjoy additional entertainment at the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts at Broad and Washington and at the Kimmel Center at Broad and Spruce. ”  The String Bands likely will have a couple of other music only locations, not the full drill, such as at Broad and Snyder.  10,000 Mummers are expected to strut up Broad Street.  The parade will be see on PHL17 in the Philadelphia region and portions of the parade will also be viewed on stations in Harrisburg/York, Washington, DC and New York.  Photos and video will also be posted on

Wishing The Best

Courtesy PASB

Get Well Soon, Marty and Pete!

Two Mummers who are greatly loved are not feeling too well right now and I want to wish them the best for full recoveries.  Marty Rotindo, Jr., of Polish American String Band, fell ill at rehearsal and has been hospitalized.  Marty’s day job is teaching students at a high school in South Jersey.  At night and on weekends, he’s done great work with Polish American String Band and in spreading good cheer among Mummers.   Marty, the Duck needs you. :)

Courtesy Broomall SB

Another Mummer is recovering.  Pete Broomall, Sr., of National Park, New Jersey-based Peter A. Broomall String Band. Pete is getting better at home now after a two-day stay at Cooper.  The Broomall family is a strong example of the Mummers tradition.  Pete is a busy Pastor in South Jersey.  He serves two United Methodist Churches, one in Malaga and one in Porchtown.  His ministry, the Mummers and his family make him quite a busy guy.

Please keep these good men in your thoughts and prayers.

Rules of “Play”

I get asked from time to time what the guidelines, regulations or rules are for the Mummers Parade. Well, there are many. But here are a few you might find interesting.

In order to be allowed into the parade, to be allowed to go up Broad Street, a String Band must have at least 40 costumed members and no more than 67.  At least 40 of those costumed members must be playing a primary instrument, meaning one of the following: reed, string, drum, cymbal, or glockenspiel.  Other kinds of bells and other instruments, such as a flute, for example, are considered secondary instruments.  There can be no electronic amplification of the sound the bands make.  No live animals are allowed.  You’ll see the use of carbon dioxide to propel the confetti, but there can be no use of water, smoke bombs, firecrfackers or fire.

Brian Hamburg & Chris O'Brien of Fralinger SB

Timing is important.  Each band is given 4 minutes and 30 seconds to perform. That starts with the first note and ends with the first costumed band member crossing the end or “exit” line.  A band that violates this timing rule is penalized one point per second of violation. No commercial or advertisement of any kind is allowed on the costumes. This last rule helps preserve the purity of the themes but you can see how it also hampers the bands in fundraising, especially in an era when government is able to provide less and itself is asking more financially from parade participants.

There are many more rules for the String Band Division and for each of the other divisions. For example, in the Wench Brigade Division, the 7 oldest wench brigades of the previous parade are “grandfathered in”, plus there can be one lottery club.  The Fancy Brigades are limited to 4 minutes and 30 seconds, plus 45 seconds to leave the stage floor of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  Just a few of the few dozen pages of rules pertaining to the participants in the 2011 Mummers Parade.

Getting Closer…

There are a few signposts along the road to New Year’s Day that tell you that you’re getting closer to the Mummers Parade.  Some of them include, “Hey, that prop needs more wood,” and “We actually are beginning to sound good.”  There are other signs such as the kids Christmas parties, Kazoo/Hat Day and the Mummers Mass.  The annual Mass at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church at 5th and Girard is this Sunday, the 19th, at 9 a.m.  That’s when the Mummers procession is scheduled to begin.  Msgr. George is much appreciated for his support of the Mummers.  String Bands and Fancy Brigades rehearse later in the morning in halls, school gyms, in warehouses and under I-95.  The annual Hat Day/Kazoo Day event, celebrated in various fashion at clubhouses, picks up steam in the afternoon.  Some of these are family events. Others, less so.  Weather permitting, a serenade takes place along Mummers Row.  Over the last couple of weeks, many of the clubs have held Christmas parties for children of club members and some more will take place this weekend. I stopped by two last week. Avalon String Band and Jokers Fancy Brigade gave up their clubhouses to the kids.  There was a live animal show courtesy of the Philadelphia Zoo at Avalon and there was a great magician, Jimmy McGinty, at Jokers.  Even with all the pressure that’s intensifying right now, with last minute designs, changes in music, adjustments to props, working with the costumes, and in some Captain’s cases, still waiting to see that full costume in action, this is a time that you see Mummers as a family tradition.  Generations meet and drill together. Adults take time to give the kids an afternoon to rule the clubhouse. It’s all coming together. Christmas parties for the children, Kazoo Day, walking down the street or driving under I-95 and seeing everyone at work on their presentations, taking time to honor old friends, Palma Lucas sewing like no one else can on Greenwich Street, Hog Island and Golden Sunrise talking smack with each other, and Murray Comic Club methodically planning to try to break yet another record.  These are just many of the signs not of winter, but of a new beginning, a New Year in Philadelphia, getting closer.


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