A Goodbye to “Corky”

It is never easy to say goodbye to a loved one. Never easy to say goodbye to someone who was a leader. But, that time sadly came today for family, friends and the community of Mummers saying a final farewell to Mr. Robert Corcoran.

 Bob “Corky” Corcoran, Hall of Famer, former President of the String Band Association, former President of Woodland String Band, and member and officer in other bands over his decades-long career in Mummery, passed away on January 22nd.   In a note to many Mummers, Tom Loomis, of Woodland String Band, called Bob Corcoran, “a LOVING guy who stood by his people and stood strong for our great tradition of Mummery.”

Today, members of Avalon, Ferko, Pennsport and Woodland String Bands gathered outside of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church at 3rd and Reed Streets in South Philadelphia to play a final serenade to Mr. Corcoran.  Also adding to the meaningful service was The Second Street Irish Society Pipes and Drums.  Mummer Mike Dingler, attended today’s service and echoes the thoughts of many, when he says, “It was a fitting send-off to a man who touched so many lives.”  Bob touched those lives as a father and grandfather, husband, brother, and uncle, as a Teamster, a court worker,  a West Catholic guy, a Comic, a musician, a String Band advocate, and a defender of tradition. The Corcoran family lives on in the Mummers, as will the contributions and the memory of Mr. Robert Corcoran.

String Band Order of March

The next big piece of the 2012 puzzle has been laid.  We now know the Order of March for the String Bands for the January 1, 2012 parade.  Here it is, courtesy of String Band Association President John Pignotti.  If Irish American String Band, which did not march in 2011, comes back into the parade, it will be first, followed by Duffy, then Fralinger, which has drawn another early start.  But notice there are some other “power bands” not far behind that and there’s a healthy assortment throughout.  Hegeman and Woodland draw the final appearances, coveted by most bands.

Based on this, the chess game of themes and execution now gets more intense.  Fun.

Sweet Time

Good friends met tonight at the Sugar House Casino.  Sugar House hosted MummersAppreciation Night at the casino’s Refinery Restaurant.  Mummers from all across Mummery gathered to eat, drink, talk, win prizes and otherwise have a good time.  They came from Murray Comic Club, Golden Sunrise and Hog Island Fancy Clubs, and scores of String Bands and Fancy Brigades. 

Fred Keller was telling me how the Jokers worked so hard to turn around some last minute snafus to take 1st Prize, Avalon Captain Jack Hee shared his Mr. Mom weekend (you can do it, Jack!), Big Bob Shannon gave a thumbs up, and  Bill Burke was all smiles.  You name the Mummer and you saw the smile, humor and real people so many Philadelphians have come to know.  South Philly Vikings, Shooting Stars, Polish American, Greater Kensington (Captain Tatar was there) and more appreciated the thanks the gaming establishment bestowed.  Wendy Hamilton of Sugar House and her team of very gracious and competent player representatives provided a casual and fun setting for these Titans of Two Street.  There’s Wendy with the great Joe Leso of Polish American. Below are some other photos from tonight’s Mummers Appreciation Night at Sugar House Casino on Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


And a splendid time was guaranteed for all.

Get Yer Motor Runnin’

The “Git-Er-Done” crew will soon head out on the highway.  Woodland String Band, typical of many Mummers Clubs and more active than some, is starting another year of showmanship, fundraising, togetherness and ambassadorship.  New Year’s Day is the “Big Game,” but throughout the year String Bands and other clubs hit the road.  Take a look at last year’s official travel schedule for Woodland.  It includes Macroom, Ireland and Baltimore, Maryland in March, Wiconsico, Pennsylvania in June, Niagara Falls, New York and Washington, DC in July, Decatur, Illinois, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and Frackville, Pennsylvania in August, Palmyra, Pennsylvania(Yes, there is a Palmyra, PA—It’s in Lebanon County), Gardner, Massachusetts, and New London, Connecticut in September,  Elkins, West Virginia and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware in October.  This does  not count the in-town appearances, some for charity, that Woodland’s members do.  To all the clubs who are embarking on another great year of ambassadorship and outreach to keep the tradition alive, remember WWWD.  “Git-Er-Done!”

2011 PHL17 Viewers Choice Winners!

The votes of the people are tabulated! The 2011 PHL17 Viewers Choice Awards are in and once again the people have spoken. You may recall that Polish American finished first in the 2010 Viewers Choice Poll in the String Bands and that South Philly Vikings finished first in the Fancy Brigades in the 2010 Viewers Choice Awards. Who won this year and how close were some of the finishes?

The number one String Band on New Year’s Day, 2011, according to the viewers is Quaker City String Band! The number one Fancy Brigade for 2011 is Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars! Quaker’s Clown theme and the Stars’ Scottish theme were strong crowd pleasers.  Here’s how the top finishers fared in the 2011 Viewers Choice Poll. In parenthesis is where each band finished in the official judging, so you can compare.

The Viewers Choice String Band Top Ten Order of Finish.

1. Quaker City(1)  2. Polish American(8)  3. Ferko(2)

4. South Philadelphia(3)  5. Fralinger(4)  6. Pennsport(15)

7. Woodland(6)  8. Aqua(11)  9. Durning(12)  10. Uptown(9)

Quaker won by a substantial margin and the result is in keeping with the buzz you heard on the street New Year’s Day.  In music, in production and in eye-candy costuming, they put it all together on January 1, 2011.

Polish American moved up significantly from its official finish, but that should not be surprising in that the theme and performance were familiar and sound, and that Captain Mark Danielewicz did such a fine job.  The official judges named him 1st Prize Captain.  P-A always finds a way to give String Band fans something they’ll like from Mummers Row to Port Richmond.

The next 3 finishers in the 2011 Viewers Choice Poll were so close in voting as to be nearly interchangeable. That too, is not surprising in the sense of how good Ferko, South Philadelphia and Fralinger were and how different their performances were in style.  The biggest mover is Pennsport String Band, finishing 6th in the poll, but 15th in the judging. However, again, this is likely accounted for by the accessibility factor with “Marching to Our Own Beat,” the veteran Mummers that they are and their good performance, Captain Charlie Nicholas, and the fact that the people voting when they are voting makes them less likely to be influenced by where a band is in the Order of March. Woodland comes in similar to its judging finish. Aqua moves up 3 spots, as did Durning.  Durning’s Christmas theme was popular with the crowd. Uptown ends up close to its official position.

The top 5 finishers in the Fancy Brigades in the eyes of the viewers for 2011 are (with official finish in parenthesis)

1. Shooting Stars(3)  2. South Philly Vikings(2)

3. Jokers(1)  4. Satin Slipper(7)  5. Downtowners(5)

The Shooting Stars had one of the best uses of lighting that I’ve seen in awhile. Their Scottish “Haunted Highlands” theme was very well executed and enjoyable. If there is a conclusion that you can draw over the 5 years of the Viewers Choice Award, it is that while the viewers often mirror the judges, there are always some variations and more often than not, those differences of opinion are over the accessible entertainment value rather than specific criteria that judges might look at. You’ll often find accessible themes and presentations being warmly received by the viewers. More simply put, they are “wowed.” That wow factor was obvious in the audience when it saw South Philly Vikings’ flying carpets. The flying carpets are an example of what I call “eye-propping.” The Vikings and the Jokers finished very close to each other in the Viewers Choice Poll, almost a tie for second. The Jokers did “Clash of the Titans” and it was all that among the brigades on New Year’s Day inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Satin Slipper moved up 3 spots with the Viewers Choice Poll.  Downtowners held its position same as in the judging, at number 5.

On another note, a formal thank you to the great Fancy Brigade Captains of New Year’s Day. Here’s a look at how the top 2 Captain’s positions ended in the official judging. 1st Prize Captain on New Year’s Day went to Joe Gallagher (total points 178.50). The performance by “Bad News” was outstanding and his role fit excellently into the production.  Captain Jack Hatty, Jr.(175.00), of Saturnalian, finished 2nd Prize Captain. Jack’s costume soaked up your eyes. A beautiful costume, including that powerful headdress.  Jack’s production and performance were a part of and enhanced the theme. He had a strong purpose. If an energetic performance can be graceful, Jack and Saturnalian did it. Joe Gallagher accomplished something similar. The Jokers props were mammoth and there’s always the risk that a Captain can get lost, but Joe did not. He was a titan himself, as “large” as the props.

Outgoing Shooting Stars Captain Mickey Adams performed well as the leader of the “Haunted Highlands.” Mickey has a commanding presence every time he steps onto the floor. Pete D’Amato, Captain of South Philly Vikings, put together a top shelf interactive Captain’s performance. He wove himself well into the theme and throughout the routine.

Close Captaining

Mark Danielewicz

The leadership, dancing and overall entertainment value of the String Band Captains are  strong in the annual Mummers Parade.  The 2011 tradition provided the stage for exceptional performances.  Polish American String Band Captain Mark Danielewicz took first prize in his role as the Captain of a group of shipwrecked pirates.  Mark’s costume, his interaction with the band and his well-executed dancing were  awesome.  He got the highest score of the day in any category, an 18.950 out of a possible 20.00, in the Design category.  Mark won all three categories of Costume, Design and Effect. (Total score 56.450)  He did tie for first in the Effect category with another great young Captain, Jack Hee, Jr, of Avalon.

Jack Hee, Jr.

Jack was the energetic leader of Avalon’s “Holiday in Havana” theme.  This theme demands fast tempos and real proof of rhythm.  Jack finished a close second in the Costume and Design categories. In all, Jack Hee was behind Mark Danielewicz by 8-tenths of a point.(55.650) I’d give Jack the “cardio award” for the pace he maintained and the quality he maintained at that pace. That is what a Havana theme demands, too.

It was also close between second and third place.  Less than 7-tenths of a point behind Jack was Fralinger Captain Thomas D’Amore.(55.000)  Thomas’s Costuming and the Effect category helped capture third for him.  The competition was so close that only about 3 points separated  5th place from 1st place.  Ferko String Band Captain Anthony Celenza, lead prospector in his band’s Gold Rush theme, claimed 4th prize.(53.750)  Captain Celenza actually scored 3rd in the Design Category.  I was impressed with Celenza’s design and corresponding costume changes, (and not just Clementine), his immersion into each scene.  Hegeman Captain John Baron, sheriff of the day in his band’s western theme, collared 5th place(53.400) and actually scored 4th in the Costume category.

Thomas D'Amore

John P. Baron

Anthony Celenza


Denny Palandro

It is very difficult when looking at Captains to try to rate them.  So much of how you view their performances depends on factors outside of their control, including Costuming and Design.  Knowing this and seeing the work so many of the Captains put in, I appreciate each of them.  For example, I could easily have understood if either or both of the next two Captains in the 2011 Order of Finish had finished higher.  Denny Palandro (52.050), of South Philadelphia String Band, brought back in my mind “Showboat” and

Charlie Roetz

 the entire band performed excellently.  Coming in 7th (50.250) in the Captain’s category was Charlie Roetz, of Quaker City.  Some people are surprised Charlie did not finish higher, since Quaker took first prize.  His tightrope performance was innovative and fun.   I think Charlie’s 7th place finish has less to do with Charlie and more to do with the total design of the routine.  Charlie Roetz performed the role that was designed very well,  but several, perhaps all, of the Captains who finished ahead of him had more up front involvement and dancing.  The judges also looked at the costuming of the first six and scored them higher than Charlie’s.

Aqua’s Ron Iannacone(46.900), Greater Kensington’s Jim Tatar, Jr.(42.500), and Ryan Radcliffe(40.450), of Uptown, rounded out the top ten.  Here’s the rest of the list as determined by the official judges.

11th-Tom Robison, Woodland

12th-Joe Pomante, Durning

13th-Charlie Nicholas, Pennsport

14th-Joseph R. Kaminski, Trilby

15th-Peter J. Broomall, Sr., Broomall

16th-Ted Kudrick, Duffy

17th-Carmen Vitanza, Sr.

Thank you, Captains, one and all.

The Winners

The 2011 Mummers Parade has launched the New Year as only Philadelphia  can.  Ten thousand strutters in 5 Divisions with 3 Comic Clubs, 8 Wench Brigades, 2 Fancy Clubs, 17 String bands and 10 Fancy Brigades thrilled crowds along Broad Street and inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  I saw lots of Lady Gaga spoofs and more than a few environmental and economic themes in the Comics and lots of cute “penguins,” too. 

Quaker City String Band has reclaimed 1st Prize in the String Band Division.  Fralinger String Band had won 8 times in a row and has owned the 21st Century, but this year, Quaker had the right theme, the right costuming, musical arrangement and musicianship and performed at the top of their game.  Captain Charlie Roetz was a perfect clown and his planned fall from the high wire will long be remembered. 

Ferko String Band came in 2nd  for the second year in a row with its prospecting theme.  The judges actually gave them an edge over Quaker in music playing and in visual total production, but Quaker got the edge in the effect of the music and the visual presentation.  South Philadelphia came in 3rd, just 00.300 points ahead of 4th place Fralinger. 

So many Captains performed exceptionally it was hard to rate them.  The judges declared Polish American’s Mark Danielewicz number one and I could tell in practice how good he was.  Jack Hee of Avalon also excelled, coming in 2nd.  Anthony D’Amore, of Fralinger was third.  Anthony Celenza of Ferko and Hegeman’s John Baron proved again their ability and I must commend Denny Palandro of South Philadelphia and Charlie Roetz. I think both made their bands better.

Woodland String Band, South Philadelphia and Fralinger were among those performing early in the competition and historically that is a more difficult challenge.  They made the parade a greater parade and set the bar for those who followed.   Here is the String Band Order of Finish:  Quaker City, Ferko, South Philadelphia, Fralinger, Avalon, Woodland, Hegeman, Polish American, Uptown, Greater Kensington, Aqua, Durning, Duffy, Greater Overbrook, Pennsport, Trilby and Broomall. 

In the Fancy Brigades, Jokers NYA and Captain Joe “Bad News” Gallagher claimed first prize with “Clash of the Titans.”  South Philly Vikings valiantly defended their title but the Jokers were strong enough to take the top prize.  You could clearly see in the brigades performances how intense the competition is getting and how Broadway truly has come to the Convention Center.

The Fancy Division saw tight competition between Golden Sunrise and Hog Island with the Hogs coming out on top, including Captain Kenny Medeiros whose 1950’s theme was an exciting crowd pleaser.  Golden Sunrise took first prize in Fancy Trio with “Bee-u-tiful.”  The coveted Handsome Costume category was won by Golden Sunrise’s entry “Symphonic Hazard” performed by Jozef Jozefowski.  What a beautiful costume!  The piano keys, the organ pipes.  Well executed.  Golden Sunrise took the top three positions in this category.  It also won the Handsome Trim category with  Winter Wonderland.

Murray Comic Club takes 1st prize for the 13th time in a row.  Captain Dennis Pellegrino also scored the big win again with his theme, “There’s Gold in Them There Hills.”  Landi won the group top prize with “Chef Landi’s Recipe for a World Series Win.”  Murray won the brigades category with Big Daddy Wags’ Jester’s doing “Jungle Jive.”  Bud Emig, of B. Love Strutters takes top prize for Brigade Captain.

The Wench Brigades were won this January 1 by Riverfront and its hobo theme with Bryson a close second. Cara Liom came in 3rd.  Congratulations to Tom Kelhower, Captain of Riverfront, for taking the 1st prize Captain’s award.

And last but certainly not least, Jake Hart and I are pleased to announce the winner of the annual “Custard’s Last Stand” award for the “punniest” theme.  The title also has to work with the theme, not just be a good pun. The 2011 winner of the “Custard’s Last Stand” award is Uptown String Band for its theme title, “Shake, Rattle and Casserole.”  Bon Appetit!  The Mummers 2011 feast, the 111th official parade up Broad Street, was a delicious delight.

Congratulations to the Mummers.  Because of you, the real winners are the citizens of the Philadelphia region and all who get a chance to know you and be entertained by you.