It’s time. The 2012 Greatest Folk Parade Tradition steps off in 57 days. On this first weekend in November thousands of Mummers take a significant turn in the long process of getting ready for the Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day. The RPM’s rev a little more, almost with each new day. But, while the rehearsals continue and the focus intensifies, some of the other aspects of Mummery still go on. That includes fundraising. So, tomorrow, Sunday, November 6th, I encourage you to stop by Neumann Goretti High School for “Mummers Celebrate Crafts.” Parking and admittance are free. The event features more than 40 artists. Get a head start on the holidays and also in the process help the Philadelphia Fancy Brigade Association be able to create their artistry in the Convention Center on NY’s Day. (I plan to stop by around another event I’m involved with called Art-Reach. It brings the arts to kids who otherwise would not exposed to them.) Support Your Local Mummer with an enjoyable, affordable shopping experience tomorrow at Neumann Goretti.
About 1100 people came out last night for the annual Philadelphia Police Athletic League Awards Dinner at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel. I was there along with a bunch of good citizens from PHL17 and NBC10. Proceeds go to the more than two-dozen PAL Centers providing a safe haven, recreation and mentoring to thousands of young people. Congratulations to the big three honorees of the evening: Ruben Amaro, Jr.,of the Philadelphia Phillies, Dan Hilferty of Independence Blue Cross, and Jeff Scarpello, of NECA.
I want to mention some other folks, too, who continue to do great work and who I’ve been in the company of in the last week or so. Brother Al and Sister Rosemarie of Inn Dwelling, which for 30 years has been helping people get on their feet, sustain themselves and have opportunity to succeed through transitional housing, educational and other assistance in Germantown, Mt. Airy and Northeast Philadelphia. They shared some time with me during the weekend at Merion Mercy Academy.
I also emceed the annual Philadelphia Young Playwrights production at World Café Live last week. The fundraiser, awards ceremony and theatrical production was a thrill to see. The creations of these young folks who got to work with professional producers, directors and actors, came to life on stage and provided more evidence of the transformative power of the arts. Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes (seen at right) applauded the participants. Former Governor Ed Rendell stopped by, too. Former Chair of the PA Council on the Arts, Diane Dalto Woosnam, was honored for her years of supporting and leading the arts. However, the young playwrights shined the brightest! Executive Producing Director Glen Knapp does an outstanding job with the program. Young Playwrights is all about lifting voices, raising self-worth and awareness, making good writers, enabling expression and helping teens become the great people they can be.
The other night I emceed a fun but emotional event : the Inaugural Karen Graham Golf Classic Dinner at JC Melrose Country Club in Cheltenham. Karen’s husband, Jim, and other family members and friends launched the effort to raise money for the Joan Karnell Cancer Center, which Karen praised during her valiant fight against cancer. Even though she was ill, Karen started an endowment fund to help women who couldn’t afford or undertake transportation to and from treatment, who needed money until a person’s disability began, and other needs. This inaugural effort is a credit to her family and friends, but also it speaks volumes about how Karen positively impacted everyone around her and will for generations to come.
At anothe event I saw folks who work every day to prevent child abuse and when child abuse happens, help children overcome what they have suffered. I saw a lot of good folks at the annual Philadelphia Children’s Alliance Bear Affair. The Alliance is one of the unsung heroes of our nation. They quietly work to bring justice to children who have been victims of child abuse. The event at the Crystal Tea Room raised vitally needed funds to make sure that over the next year nearly a thousand children, as well as innocent members of those children’s families, can find justice and can begin reclaiming their lives.
We honored a Mummers legend on a night to remember in a room and a city of memories. In Philadelphia, in the Crystal Tea Room, Mummery said farewell to Mickey Adams, retiring Captain of Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars Fancy Brigade. Hundreds of Mummers from across the 5 divisions dined and joked, talked and cried in an emotional evening in which the best of the Mummer tradition shined. It was a Captain’s Night of Captain’s Nights.
Mickey Adams has been a Mummer most of his life and led the Shooting Stars as Captain for 20 parades. In that time he won more first prizes than any Captain in the Brigades and led the Stars to 1st Prize as a club nearly one out of every two times the Brigade hit Broad Street. Mickey was always trying to come up with new ideas and push the envelope. He reigned in a time of explosive change for the Fancy Brigades and made the most of it.
What some folks didn’t know is that for all of his success, he still got nervous on New Year’s morning. Mr. Adams would even, well, let’s just say he’d get a little sick to his stomach, and then he’d go out into the lights and win.
Fred Keller of the Jokers Fancy Brigade commented in his praise of Mickey, “If I was better at this maybe I’d have all those prizes. You’re welcome, Mickey!” Truth is, Fred was great and by being so he and the other captains made Mickey’s accomplishments all the more awesome.
This record of success in a tradition of competition is in itself remarkable, but it is Mickey the man who brought String Bands, competitive Brigades and normally do-their-own thing Wench Brigades together to salute one of the all time greats of Mummery. One after another they stepped up to tell of Mickey’s impact. This impact was felt from design to costuming to choreography to production to presentation. But speaker after speaker commented on the impact of Mickey the leader, Mickey the man who lives up to the great name, Bill McIntyre.
Most telling were the words of his own family, his sons Michael and Brian, who spoke of a devoted father and husband and leader. Mickey’s daughters and his wife, Alice, were there, too. If anyone in the room felt more love than Mickey, it was Alice. At the end, out came the umbrellas, the saxophones and banjos struck up the tune and a strut for the ages erupted.
When Mickey spoke, you learned something that you did not know, or maybe just had forgotten. Mummery is more than a hobby, more than entertainment or tradition. It is about family, including the larger family of the club and the community. Mickey Adams was drill sergeant, accountant, cheerleader, brother and father to dozens, maybe hundreds of young men. It’s the part of the tradition we don’t see among the makeup, masks and feathers of New Year’s Day. There are great names in the humble tradition of Mummery. Names like Isaacs, Burke, Bowen, Shannon and McIntyre. Mickey Adams takes his place among them.
Here are some more images.
As I FB’d earlier in the week, I enthusiastically watched members of the South Philly Vikings in their last Philadelphia rehearsal before they left for Los Angeles. SPV is in L.A. and rehearsing for their next appearance on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Captain Pete D’Amato says, “The competition is pretty wild. There’s some good stuff.” What do the Vikings have planned? I won’t give it away, but I will tell you that you’ve never seen the Vikings do what they are about to do. With some energy and creativity, SPV will put on a new performance, which is a good move because the judges want to see new things from the contestants. The brigade also will have more members performing than they had in New York. The Vikes say thanks to Al Delbuono for working so quickly, so well, and so affordably, on the costuming. Captain Pete says doing this competition is expensive, but they wanted to do it for the Mummers and now that they are in the top 48, out of thousands of contestants, SPV also really wants to win. Co-choreographer Maria Lauer is proud of how the members have worked so hard, the hairstylists, electricians, desk workers, and others, now all dancers. Maria says the ”power and energy” of the Fancy Brigade’s performance is strong. Watching the rehearsal, I agree. So, in addition to the Phillies game, tune in “America’s Got Talent” this coming Tuesday night, July 27th, to cheer on the Vikings and to make sure you vote for them. There will be a phone number given out at that time and I will also post it here. Go SPV. Burbank and Hollywood are yours. Grab it.
I’m ready for spring. The whole long-cold, water-logged region is starting to utter a big sigh. It must be what that first moment after getting out of prison feels like. Well, anyway, as enjoyable as winter can be, we’ve served the sentence and we’re set for a Phanatic good time. And, there is also much strutting in progress, too. I look forward to the New Years Shooters and Mummers Association awards banquet this weekend at the Museum. The following weekend the Wench Brigade Division has its banquet and the next day, Sunday, the String Band Association breaks bread and hands out trophies. Meanwhile, the String Bands are making summer plans and putting meat on the bones of their themes. Below are themes approved for most of the bands. I’ll update the others listed as TBA as they inform me their theme has been approved, but it gives Mummers fans an idea what the bands are working on and what New Year’s Day, 2011, will look and sound like. Here they are in scheduled 2011 Order of March.
1. Pennsport——————”Marching With the Mummers”
3. Woodland——————”A Bayou Blast”
4. Broomall——————”Tin Can Alley”
5. South Philadelphia——”Showboat Jubilee”
7. Irish American———–TBA
8. Greater Kensington——TBA
9. Aqua———————–”Aqua Has A-Peel”
10. Polish American——–”The Pirates of Port Richmond”
11. Trilby———————-”Court of the Demon King”
12. Uptown——————–”Table For Two”
15. Quaker City—————”Clownin’ Around”
16. Avalon———————”Southern Religious Revival”
17. Greater Overbrook——-”Overbrook 3011″
18. Ferko————————”Out West-Prospecting for Gold!”
Snow of Snows? No, winter cannot and did not stop the awesome Philadelphia Mummers String Band Association Show of Shows! 16 bands performed this weekend at two shows at fabulous Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
For members of the bands and their families it is part show, part reunion, part work, part competition and part convention. The bands set up stalls in a large exhibition or staging hall off the main arena. It’s there, in backstage privacy, where the members gather with food and drink and walk up and down the rows, greeting friends and making new ones. Bands rehearse and put on really fun performances there for and with each other. The Durning Duck even conducted a sort of race, but I digress. It’s a lot of work getting the instruments and props into the hall and setting up. At the end, there’s the striking of the encampment, too. But, in between, it’s a celebration of Mummery, music and family. One of the early moments happened on Friday evening. Avalon String Band hosted a memorial toast to Mummers no longer with us. Polish American String Band’s Joe Bujnowski, using a bullhorn, said words of loss and remembrance and led the raising of the cups. It was a solemn moment, beginning a weekend of revelry and showmanship. (Congratulations to P-A’s Bujnowski and Joe Leso who’ll enter the Hall of Fame this year. Outstanding choreographer of many bands, Denny Quaile, will also be inducted.) While much of the action is backstage, it is the 6 hours of on-stage performing that is the centerpiece of the Shows of Shows. The photos seen here are from several of the performances and taken by me from my vantage point on the floor as the emcee of the shows. Thus, the plethora of profiles and shots from behind. But, this view gives me an extra insight into the emotion and energy of the performers just a few feet away and the behind the scenes work of the marshals who move the props. The performances at the shows are not judged as they are on New Year’s Day, but there is a competitive spirit.
The bands want to be at their best. (And that’s no bull.) The members are their own worst critics. After the second show I went backstage to talk with bandmembers and I found several talking about how their bands performed that day. One Captain told me how his band was not happy with their first show performance and worked on it to make it better in the second show. The first show was fine but Mummers are entertainers and they want to make sure the fans are getting what they deserve.
And there’s another kind of competitiveness: the psych. South Philadelphia String Band was a good example of this. In their encampment near other high finishers, such as Quaker City and Fralinger, they had a teepee, which made sense since their 2010 theme was “Gathering of Nations”, a Native American theme. But if you looked closely, there were two ship stacks that came out of the top and “smoke” was coming out them. You go inside the teepee, and overhead was a paddle wheel. South Philadelphia’s 2011 theme is a riverboat one and the touches start to get members in the spirit and signal to visitors just how big South Philadelphia is thinking and what they are already working on. There are many great moments backstage.
Fralinger Captain Thomas D’Amore had the bearing of man far beyond his 21 years. He walked about with the confidence of a 1st Prize winning Captain but with the humility that often you only see in an older Captain. Out on the floor, the veteran Captain Jim Driadon, in his 60th year with Greater O, worked the crowd. Jim understands one of the beauties of the Show of Shows is the chance to get up close and personal with the audience. To see the look on one little girl’s face as Jim, with that huge plumed backpiece, went over to her and shook her hand, was priceless. The crowd sang along, strutted and appreciated the bands’ performances. Duffy tossed boxes of animal crackers into the crowd, in keeping with its theme. Hegeman was inspirationally crazy as usual by hiding its band in the stands among the crowd. The whole world was smiling with Hegeman and Captain John Baron inside Boardwalk Hall. Captain Anthony Celenza, of the Joseph A. Ferko String Band was King of the Hobo’s riding that train and offering me “soup” center stage. From Trilby, led by Captain Joe Kaminski, seen to the left, to Fralinger, the audience was treated to the sights and sounds of the string bands. Quaker City reprised its marvelous Spanish theme from New Year’s Day, and also honored retired Captain Bob Shannon, Jr., for his 50th year in Mummery. 2nd Prize Captain Charlie Roetz was in top form. The Show of Shows is a place where the bands can take the time to deliver personal thanks, often family members will deliver roses to them at the end of the performance. Greater Kensington saluted Lenny Giacabetti, Sr., as he retires in his 52nd year. Congratulations to Avalon’s Jack Hee, who was able to juggle real life with his Mummer obligations. Jack’s son, Michael, had his confirmation Saturday, but Jack was just able to get to the show in time.
Aqua’s Ron Iannacone was a leader among Captain’s in the time spent with the audience, taking pictures and chatting it up. Uptown String Band’s new Captain, Ryan Radcliffe, certainly took no siesta during their Old Mexico performance. Young and old made up Broomall, where 175 years of Broomall family Mummer experience was on display, from 4 year-old Kaden to 85-year-old Jim. Woodland said so long to outgoing drill director and newly elected member of the Woodland String Band Hall of Fame, Mr. Tom King. And for them all, the applause came early and often. It was the Show of Shows. The tradition continues.
It was a momentous occasion tonight in the cavernous gymnasium at St. Matthew’s School in National Park, New Jersey. Members of Quaker City String Band, rehearsing for the upcoming Show of Shows, kept one eye on the music and one eye on the prize waiting in the corner.
Jake Hart, the judge of judges, was there. Beside him, a small but potent piece of plexiglass and wood, symbolizing one of the core beliefs of Mummery: Fun. I was there, too. It was our annual moment to award the 2010 Custard’s Last Stand Award. The award is named for the famous Durning String Band presentation of 1989. It is given to the punniest theme which also fits the performance on New Year’s Day. And this year the award goes to Quaker City String Band for their wonderful theme, “Mums of La Mancha.”
Jake presented the trophy to Quaker City String Band President Harry Brown, Jr. After receiving the trophy, the band cheered and then got to work, getting ready for the Show of Shows, which takes place February 27th in Atlantic City.
The trophy, like the Stanley Cup, moves from club to club with each new winner, though one difference is you can’t drink from it.
Here’s the list of previous Custard’s Last Stand awardees:
2009 “Saturday Fright Fever” –Durning
2008 “Ghouls Gone Wild” –Polish American String Band
2007 “Raided AARRRRRRGH!” –Aqua
2006 “That’s Enter-TRAIN-ment” –South Philadelphia
2005 “How the West Was Mum” –Woodland
2004 “Jailhouse Flock” –Aqua
2003 “AAAAargh!” –Woodland
We know the Order of March for the string bands in the 2011 Comcast Mummers Parade! Representatives of the String Bands met Tuesday night at the Mummers Museum and took part in the selection of positions. The upshot? Fralinger is going early for the first time in a long time, South Philadelphia, too, Ferko goes up last again, there’s a good mix of strong and not as strong bands spread throughout the parade, and Duffy and Greater Overbrook get spots near the end.
Here’s the order:
5. South Philadelphia
7. Irish American
8. Greater Kensington
10. Polish American
15. Quaker City
17. Greater Overbrook
How the order was determined was changed this year to make any starting position in the parade more one of chance. Generally, band members believe going earlier in the parade lessens the chance of a good finish in the judging and going later increases the chance of finishing higher up. Some felt the recent selection process, which allowed higher finishing bands to bunch for the most part in the last half of the marching order, contributed to some bands continuing strong performances in the judging. One thing is clear: After the selections Tuesday night, some bands who often saw themselves going up among the first few bands, now are energized, pumped that they get a chance to perform later in the parade. All eyes will be watching to see how defending champion Fralinger responds to the challenge.
Sentiments shared by most Captains on and after New Year’s Day. Thanks, Ron Iannacone and Aqua!
In the Allentown area Saturday afternoon, January 9th, swing by the Crocodile Rock Cafe to hear some great music, meet great people and help speed research for treatments and a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
Alexa Dectis will be performing her first concert. She has cut a CD and like the CD, proceeds from the event will go to SMA research. Other performers are on the bill, too. Among them, Sarah Solovay, Outside the Box and the Scott Marshall Band. The Crocodile Rock Cafe is at 520 Hamilton Street in Allentown. Tickets are $12 at the door. Show time is 3pm. So “Rock to Walk!”
Alexa notes that if you cannot make the concert, you can still help by sending a contribution to:
Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA)
c/o Alexa Dectis
450 Harrison Street
Allentown, PA 18103