Thanks for the Mummeries

Michael Jackson’s “Never Can Say Goodbye” (the Gloria Gaynor version, too) has been wandering inside my head today. I thank each and every person who has had something kind and forever uplifting to say following the New Year’s night announcement that I am retiring from the broadcast booth. It is the right decision, but a hard one.


My colleagues over the years in the booth, broadcasters, print reporters, and Mummers all helped me appreciate the tradition. PHl17 marched alongside all the way. Individual Mummers have shown their kindness in so many ways. (Meatballs with gravy remains my favorite.) Clubs have welcomed my family into their family. Leaders and members of Divisions and Clubs have bestowed honors and extended friendship beyond description. City elected leaders, commission and community officials have engaged me with respect.
We’ve had some great times; we’ve had some tough ones. This past year had some very difficult months. Leaving the broadcast booth is the right thing for me for a number of reasons, mostly personal. In leaving, I am not leaving the good people of the Mummers who care for each other, their families and the best of the unique Philadelphia tradition.
Mummery will be fine, even thrive, if as individuals, clubs and divisions Mummers take ownership of what is not right, patiently listen to critics and be open to a simple question: How can we preserve and continue to celebrate the best of what it means to be a Philadelphia Mummer, and confidently, with open arms, relevant to today and tomorrow?
This city and the world would be better if everyone could experience the best of the Philadelphia Mummers.
From the bottom of my heart, Thanks for the Mummeries. See you on the blog and on the Street.
Steve Highsmith

Cabrini Champions!

Simply the best. The Cabrini University Cavaliers are the 2019 men’s lacrosse Division III National Champions! The Cavalier “Quiet Storm”, heard across the nation, defeating Amherst 16 to 12. Congratulations to the university family and especially the players, parents, coaches and THE coach of coaches, Steve Colfer.

We’ll Meet Again…

20190312_123944It’s the morning after we said farewell to Bobby Shannon.  Until that sunny day, Bobby. Until then.


Goodbye Friend

202 fancy & wb banquets 019We mourn the loss of a giant, Robert Shannon, Jr.  Bob Shannon meant and means that much to us.  He is a giant.  Bob was a real person who did what he did out of love and caring, not for money or fame or power.  I had the honor of knowing his humble and kind father, Robert Shannon, Sr., and I always saw his dad in Bob.  I saw the love of his children and Susan in him.

There are many things about Bob that we all know.  He was tall.  He was really tall.  He was a leader, Captain of the great Quaker City String Band for nearly 40 years.  He remains the most popular and best known of all Mummers of the Modern era.  Bob loved Mummery and he loved being Captain.  When I saw Bob, I usually said, “Mr. Ambassador!” He was a natural at connecting with those in awe of this tall (did I mention he was tall?), costumed man who looked like a giant among giants with his hat and huge back piece.  His movements were graceful for a big man.  He covered a lot of ground in a few steps, and flashed that broad smile and pointed that trademark forefinger right at you.  It may the only time you ever wanted a finger pointed at you.

All kinds of memories are colliding with each other right now, probably in you, too, if you knew Bob.  It’s been like this since Susan called today to say that Bob had passed.  Among the many thoughts, what can we do to console and be there for Susan, the family, and the band.

There are random memories of Bob, including that he liked to have fun, and that he loved Ireland and Galveston, Texas.  He was a Mummer historian, he was a friend, and he was also a great goodwill Ambassador for the city throughout this nation and across the seas.  He worked behind the scenes with TV and city administrations to promote and protect the Philadelphia tradition and help the city achieve its goals. I will never again get to greet him with, “Mr. Ambassador.”  I like to think it was our thing.

But, Bob was much more. He knew what friendship meant.  He understood that he could help a child grieve, an elderly person enjoy a difficult life and he would go anywhere to help his band, a Mummer family, his friends, strangers in need and his city.

Bob really enjoyed being a Mummer, and particularly when it came to his Captain’s suit, which especially in Bob’s era was special and often hidden from the public until parade day.  I’ll always remember the first time he said to me, “Hey, want to go upstairs and see the suit?”  Two grown men scrambling upstairs like it was Christmas morning and the only ones who got to see Santa.

Many of us will have thoughts, flashing little bits of memories, that we are pained to think we will never be able to experience again.  One of mine is Bob saying, “How you doing, pal?”  You see, he meant it.  He wanted to know.

To the Shannon family, thank you for sharing this goodhearted man with the City of Philadelphia, our region, with the countless hours in parades, in rehearsals, in visiting the sick and in bringing wide smiles to children.  Our respect for him is deep.  Our condolences to you are as tall as the giant who has decided he need not walk among us for a while.

We have lost a good man.  We will still see glimpses of him in the Class, Pride and Commitment of Quaker City String Band, in the good faith of his brother and sister Mummers in all divisions, in the strength of his family, and when we think of Philadelphia Mummery’s Mt. Rushmore.  You know, Bob Shannon, Jr. is there.


Mourning in South Philadelphia

#011SouthPhiladelphiaSBClubhouseWith the start of a new year, many people look for a new beginning in some part of their lives.  This is a good thing.  Most of us do so, not with foolish optimism, but because we are good people.  We have celebrations not because we are selfish or hedonistic, but because we want to improve, to enjoy each other, enjoy the gift of life and we want to encourage that joy in others.

New Year’s Day 2019 started that way for many, many people.  The men, women and children of the Philadelphia Mummers awoke in the early morning hours to rekindle the Philadelphia folk tradition of calling on family and friends and playing together in the streets.  They shared their brilliant suits, unique sounds, silliness and satire, struts and choreography with the world.  We hail Golden Sunrise, Murray Comic Club, Quaker City String Band, South Philly Vikings, the Pirates and all the winners.  It is about competition to some degree, but it’s also about sharing the joy of life and making others smile.  In that competition on New Year’s Day, South Philadelphia String Band finished a very close second.  It was a great day.

It then feels soul-wrenching when word comes that in the hours after that joyful expression, that three young people we knew suddenly died and that another vibrant person lies critically injured.  Young people who have helped you enjoy life are in an instant gone or fighting to live.  It’s just wrong.  Why do bad things happen to good people?

Thousands of people associated with the folk tradition of Mummery are shaking their heads and asking that question.  Some are angry; others are deeply saddened and emotionally spent.  None of the answers seems good enough as we mourn the sudden passing of three good young people and pray for the recovery of another, all victims of a crime.

The emptiness, the feeling of one’s heart jumping from your chest, is incalculably magnified, more painful and intense, for the South Philadelphia String Band family and especially for the immediate family members of Joe, Kelly, Denny and Nicole.

Mummers have been making sure that the Ferry and Palandro families and their extended families have not been alone.  They will continue to stand together, to mourn together, and hopefully to aid in Nicole’s recovery.  All will struggle to try to find the answers that elude us.  If we find a functional way forward, it may begin with faith and with always remembering the passion and joy of these beautiful young people.  For now, we just are feeling lost, and it may be that way for awhile.South Philadelphia String Band with Black Ribbon 2

Happy Mu…Mu..Mummers Day!

20171231_145939Happy New Year and on this January 1st enjoy the great folk tradition and expression of people artistry and freedom, of family and friend togetherness, and respects to those who have left us.  All that and more is the 2018 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade.

It will be very cold.  It hasn’t been this cold for many years and precautions are urged.  But, most Mummers will handle it, dressing in layers, covering what can be covered, protecting instruments and carrying on a tradition dating back generations for many, or a relatively new experience that is both fun and personal.

received_1893955057285254(1)Mummery is fun, but it is personal.  Clubs will wear buttons or badges for those who have left us, or march with signs or props bearing their images, names or initials.  20171231_145957Some are well known to all Mummery like John Lucas or Bill Speziale.  Others are known well to the clubs.  In Mummery, each is equally important.

We also this day celebrate the ritual of noticing when someone or some club has been marching for 50, 60, 75, or 72 years(Bill Doyle).  We will also end the outdoor parade with an emotional moment involving Duffy String Band who lost Captain Ted Kudrick in October. 20171026_000642Now, 11 year old Jake and all the band will perform for Ted, and because it’s what Mummers do.  And, it’s a day fans of the Mummers, on the street or watching at home, reconnect.

FB_IMG_1514780587556(1)It’s a day we notice when Mummers raise money for cancer, or autism awareness, or our Armed Forces, or individuals like Gabby, a Mummer through and through. It’s about the children like Keegan, of Riverfront Mummers.  Does that little guy got it or what?received_10214874444484083

Thank you to our Police, Firefighters and Medical personnel, Streets crews, and City Officials that help make this possible in this day and age.

So today, try to be warm whether on the street or in front of your tv, and from Golden Sunrise, from Oregon to Froggy Carr, Goodtimers, Landi and Murray, 16 String Bands from Greater Overbrook to Duffy, and all the great Fancy Brigades in the Convention Center, please enjoy New Year’s Day and the best of the Philadelphia Mummers tradition.  It is about fun, but it’s also about a whole lot more.

We may now strut around the room.


Gearing Up for the Big Parade!

Mummers are warming up the night here at Liberte Lounge at the Sofitel on 17th St! And guest bartending is underway to raise money to support Foster Children. Yeah, Mums!