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.

The Real Mr. T

Tony Bonanno is what Quaker City String Band means by Class, Pride, and Commitment. The tenor sax player has been a vital part of the band for a quarter of a century. Tony is now in Methodist Hospital in South Philadelphia in what has been an on ongoing fight against cancer. This weekend lots of Quaker City members visited him at Methodist. Praising the hospital, QC President Harry Brown says the staff has been “unbelievable” in how kind and flexible they have been. At one point the great nurses and doctors allowed about 20 band members in at once.  Check out this amazing photo.

Other club members stopped by at other times to talk with Tony who has made Quaker City a better organization for a quarter of a century. Tony always has a kind word to say.  As Harry Brown says, “Tony’s never said a bad word about anybody.”  Tony is also godfather to Harry’s daughter, Kennedy.  Mr. Bonanno has made a lot of people better and that’s why so many are rooting for him. Speaking of rooting, Tony is a huge Flyers fan and no doubt that recent last 3 seconds win in overtime by the Orange & Black was cheered loudly by him. Tony Bonanno, his wife, Maria, and their family are great Philadelphians. Keep showing QC and the world what the motto means, Tony.

Round ‘Em Up

Just about 3 weeks to the fabulous 2011 Mummers Parade and another sign that the event is rushing upon us is the “Mummers Roundup.” The annual “Roundup” at the Mummers Museum sheds more light on the upcoming big parade. It’s the meeting of heads of all the clubs participating in the parade. It is conducted by the City of Philadelphia Recreation Department. City officials lay out the staging areas, the times, the rules of the road for the strut up Broad Street and other logistics. Parade Director and Deputy Recreation Commissioner Leo Dignam led the instructions from his veteran team. Here’s some of what was made official Wednesday night. Murray will start the parade, leading the Comics up Broad Street. They’ll start at Broad and Washington at 10 a.m. and move north to City Hall. Goodtimers will follow, then Landi. Then come the Wenches. Here’s the Order of March for the Wench Division this year: Oregon(formerly a Fancy Club), Saints, Bryson, Riverfront, O’Malley, Pirates, Cara Liom and Froggy Carr. The Fancies will line up on Broad between Morris and Mifflin. Golden Sunrise and Hog Island will represent the Fancy Division this year. Next are the String Bands. Pennsport starts the String Bands at Broad and Shunk, while the rest of the bands line up at Broad and Oregon. There will be several viewing areas along the parade route and the city says some improved amenities, such as more portable toilets and warming stations. I’ll have more on that and the music and drill areas in the near future. Of course, I’m biased but unless you are sitting where I get to sit on parade day, often the best seat is in your warm family or living room watching PHL17. Our coverage begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. with the Fancy Brigades Finale (8pm to 10pm on PHL17).  I also will have the major parade prize results in the news at 10 p.m.

Change in the Parade

Change is a constant, even within a tradition.  Irish American String Band has decided not to march up Broad Street in the 2011 Mummers Parade.  I spoke to Irish American founder John Kates who tells me he thinks it’s best to take a breather and get it right, and that he hopes to reorganize for 2012.  I.A. is one of the youngest bands but its core is composed of veteran Mummers.  John joined Duffy String Band back in 1959 and marched with the legendary Henry Kunzig in the 1960 parade.  John says the one thing all Mummers must remember is that “it is supposed to be about fun and if you forget that, then turn in your ID” and call it a day.  He hopes to bring the fun back over the next year.  While Kelly Marie Mahon took time off from Irish American to take care of some personal matters this year, well before the decision by I.A. not to march,  she could be back as Captain for 2012.  A club deciding not to march happens from time to time.  Over the years some fade away, others return as they were before or come back in a different form, merged or in another division.  All the best to the members of Irish American. 

Below is the new Order of March for the 2011 Parade.

1. Pennsport 2. Fralinger 3. Woodland 4. Broomall 5. South Philadelphia.

6. Durning 7. Greater Kensington 8. Aqua 9. Polish American 10.Trilby

11. Uptown 12 .Hegeman 13. Duffy  14. Quaker City 15. Avalon 16. Greater Overbrook 17. Ferko

What It’s All About

When people asked me about the Mummers, I tell them it’s about fun, family and tradition.  There’s a lot more to it, of course, such as musicianship in the string bands, choreography and design in the Fancy Brigades, being ambassadors for Philadelphia, all the work and planning, for example.  But,  really, for most Mummers almost everything falls under fun, family and tradition.  The three are intertwined, too, but family is the one that hits me the most.  Family means generations being together.  It means friends for life.  It is especially about children, whether they are Mummer children or simply kids smiling at what has paraded in front of them on New Year’s Day.I meet a lot of kids who benefit from the Mummers caring about children.  With this story are some photos of handmade thank you cards sent to me by the 6th grade class I visited a year ago at Laurel Springs Elementary School in Laurel Springs, New Jersey.  It’s a magnificent school.  You can tell by the students, the teachers and staff and that historic building they bring to life.  Bart White, of the South Side Shooters New Years Association, which performs in the Comic Division, is a 6th Grade teacher at Laurel Springs.  Bart has positively touched many young lives, as do many Mummers throughout the year.  It’s all about the kids, part of the fun, family and tradition of New Year’s Day.