Fancy Brigade Banquet 2016

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Members of the Shooters styling on the deck at SugarHouse Casino tonight at the annual Fancy Brigade Association Banquet in Philadelphia.

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It’s a night to honor all the men, women and children who every New Year’s Day entertain the city with the Mummers tradition inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and throughout the year are there for family, neighborhood and country.

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Tonight is a night to remember the late FB Association President and former Captain of the Downtowners, Jim Julia.

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It’s a night to honor and welcome Tommy Knight, Jr.,  into the Hall of Fame.

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Among those here, Mary and Tom Loomis, Jessica and Rich Porco, Palma and John Lucas,

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and other representatives of other Mummers Divisions. Other strong supporters,

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including Vince and Norma Giannini of PHL17, joined the Brigades in this massive celebration at the new SugarHouse.

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Congratulations to Champions Golden Crown and all the clubs. A great night for a great tradition.

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Until We Meet Again, Jim.

Jim3IMG_20151119_091408663Jim Julia, Sr., has been laid to rest. Friends, colleagues and admirers have been spending today remembering Jim and, with his family, truly mourning the passing of a life taken too soon.  In a highly emotional moment, members of the Downtowners Fancy Brigade lined the center aisle of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in South Philadelphia at the end of the funeral Mass.  The closed casket bearing Jim was led down the aisle and as it passed, members reached out and touched the coffin in one final goodbye. The words and music at the service had struck every right chord in honoring Jim for his compassion, dedication and leadership.  The funeral procession then traveled by vehicle past the Downtowners clubhouse and up around the Mummers Museum, and then back down 2nd Street in one last parade.TwoMG_20151119_091523856

Thousands of people tried to say goodbye today. But, if you really need to prove the wonderful life of James J. Julia, Sr., you need to look no farther than his family.  Jim Julia, Jr., eloquently addressed us all near the end of the Mass.  His sister Meghan stood beside him, as he spoke of his father’s life, and of his father, a kid from Tree Street, losing his mother at an early age. He recalled Jim’s love of Mummery and of tradition, and Jim’s life lessons on family.  The words were more evidence of Jim, Sr.’s, love for his family and they for him.  This sudden loss is deeply painful for them.  But, you can also tell that they are trying to ask themselves, “What would Jim do now?” Most beautifully real of all is Debby, Jim’s Sr.’s, wife.  The clear love she has for her husband, the patience and grace with which she greeted each of us and the honesty with which she mourns are as moving and meaningful as anything I have witnessed.

Jim Julia has been laid to rest. I have a feeling part of him is glad we paid some attention to him.  He may even be smiling and wondering what took us so long.  But, then he’ll take a sip of coffee and tell us to move on. I imagine he’d say that if we do want to honor him, then we should remember him by doing the right thing for tradition, for family and for the people of Tree Street.JimOneIMG_20151119_091457589.jpgThank you to Debby, Meghan and Jim, Jr. and to all in his family for sharing Jim Julia, Sr.    And to Jim.  Thank you, sir.  Goodbye.

Jim Julia

2012 fancy & wb banquets 020This is a difficult hour.  Phones are ringing, text messages are vibrating, informing many of us that a person we knew well has suddenly left us.  If you were fortunate enough to know Jim Julia, you had a very good friend and now thousands of people and all of Mummery have lost this very good man.  Jim Julia passed away Thursday while at work.  It is a devastating loss.  My condolences to his beautiful and caring family.

JimJuliadaughter weddingJimJulia23Jim loved his family and he was just flat out a great guy.  He’d be there for you.  As a leader of the Downtowners Fancy Brigade and the President of the Fancy Brigade Division, Jim transformed  Mummery as it moved indoors on New Year’s Day to inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center.   He was one of the best Captains to ever hold that title. JimJuliainsuit He served as Vice-President of the Mummers Museum and helped retool the museum to a sustainable and productive future.  He cared about all aspects of Mummery and fought to preserve the best of the tradition, bringing all Mummers together.  He cared about the entire Philadelphia region and was proud to call it his home.  A leader, a family man and a friend.  I cannot believe he is gone.

His club, the Downtowners, have put together this tribute.  https://youtu.be/btO-QCXVws0

2014 Fancy Brigades Order of Enjoyment!

Saturnalian11 Fancy Brigades will perform in 2 shows at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on New Year’s Day in the 2014 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade.  This includes the new brigade, “The Spartans.”  The shows are at Noon and 5.  The official “judged” show is the 5pm performance.  That show will be broadcast on PHl17 beginning at 8pm New Year’s Day night.

Here is the order, their themes and Captains.

1.  Spartans  “One Nation, Valley of the Drums”  Captain Tom “Terk” Gindville

2.  Satin Slipper  “Adventure of Enchantment”  Captain John Bielec

3.  Golden Crown  “The Legend of Angkor Wat”  Captain Rob Runowski

4.  Saturnalian  “Twisted Treats and Sinister Sweets”  Captain Jack Hatty

5.  Downtowners  “Beyond Wonderland: A Mad Hatters World”  Captain Frankie DeVito

6.  Clevemore  “Oz”  Captain Ralph Tursi

7.  South Philly Vikings  “The City of Steam”  Captain Gerald Roccia

8.  Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars    Atlantis “Guardians of the Deep” Captain Michael Adams

9.  Jokers  “Dead Men Tell No Tales-A Journey Into Blackbeard’s Realm”  Captain Joe Gallagher

10. Avenuers  “Polynesian Adventure”  Captain Bob Fitzmaurice

11. 2nd Street Shooters “The Dead Will Rise”  Captain Rich Lind

Thank you brigades!

Work Hard, Play Hard

2012-12-23_16-04-36_37A fun weekend begins with another annual tradition, the 19th annual Fancy Brigade weekend in North Wildwood, New Jersey.  Of course, there is the Pub Crawl Friday night, but on Saturday, the 8th, after the block party, around 4:45/5:00 or so, there is the 19th annual Fancy Brigade Summer Parade.  It starts at Second Street and Olde New Jersey Avenue. Summer may now pick up steam.  The event also caps an inspirational week.

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The week featured SugarHouse Casino General Manager Wendy Hamilton announcing that SugarHouse is the title sponsor of the SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade for at least the next 3 parades. Whoo-hoos still echo along two Street.  This is a great statement of support.  PHl17 continues as the sole broadcaster of the parade.  The station presented Wendy with a new pair of Golden Slippers.

DevFndtionIMG_20130604_184828_372Also this week, I got to spend time again in Lafayette Hill with hundreds of great people raising money for the Devereux Foundation, which is beginning its second century of serving children and adults with special needs.  Devereux has been the “quiet neighbor” that doesn’t toot its own horn, but really makes a difference.

I also was updated with the plans the organization CADEkids has to expand its work in schools to teach good decision-making, how to control impulses and avoid risky behavior.  The nonprofit has been making a difference in young people’s lives for a quarter of a century.  It’s the kind of program that is needed more and more.  It’s got the data to prove it is effective.

On “In Focus” I spoke with Jerry Buckley, the relatively new CEO, of the Pennsylvania SPCA.  That is a remarkable operation which is saving 96 percent of the animals that come into its facility.

I also talked with Beverly Haberle and Fred Martin,  folks from the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania who do a wonderful job of moving people from addiction into effective recovery.  They have a project called PRO-ACT, which stands for Pennsylvania Recovery Organization-Achieving Community Together. They are actively working to remove the stigma of addiction and get us to a better place.

As I said, another inspiring week.  My thanks to the Mummers, too, who I spent hours with this week as they work to preserve the art and cultural history of Philadelphia’s unique tradition.

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.

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.