Beware the effect of Mummers TV! …or This Kid’s Gone Adorably Mum Crazy

Perhaps MummersTV should come with a warning label.  Mummers fans living in the Philadelphia area know that for weeks PHL17 has been airing old Mummers Parades and recently added the 2015 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade to the on-air rotation. Well, thanks to mom Heather Lucas-Wolfinger we now have visual evidence of what that does to impressionable minds.

Check out this video of young James Wolfinger, Jr., armed with homemade costume and toy saxophone, as he watches the parade and repeatedly, watches his Dad perform with the 1st Prize winning Fralinger String Band.

So this is how it all can begin…

 

 

The Fralinger Story

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Congratulations to Fralinger String Band on its 100th anniversary. The story can be seen tonight at 11 on PHL17 on “The Philadelphia Mummers.”  The celebration began Dec. 18th, the date of the band’s founding in South Philadelphia.

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Tears and Prayers for Weston

Wes2012-12-23_18-53-47_307It’s one of those moments when you wonder what it all means.  I met a little boy and his family a little over a year ago.  His name was Weston Keeton(in the middle),  Mom, Julie, was as kind, patient and gracious as they come; as real as a good, almost overwhelmed mom is.  Julie and her husband, Adam, and their children are from Tennessee, but Julie and Weston had been living in Philadelphia for almost a third of Weston’s life.  He needed a heart transplant.  Waiting and going in and out of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia became the way of life.  Julie talked about how kind and great CHOP and all of Philadelphia had been for her family,  The Gift of Life staff was stellar.  Some Mummers from Fralinger String Band became friends of the Keetons.  Adam had to keep working in Tennessee and take care of the other kids, except for when they could all get away to be with Julie and Weston here, as Weston hoped for a matching heart.  Lots of folks were doing everything they could.  But, now, 7-year-old Weston Keeton has passed away.  I thank Weston for his smile and for the courage a little boy cannot understand but lived everyday.  May Julie, Adam and Weston’s brothers and sisters come to understand their grief and find the answer.

Big Changes

Big changes have come on the power block of 2 Street in South Philadelphia.  Fralinger and Quaker City, two of the most successful string bands of all time, have voted to replace key members in leadership positions.  Fralinger has a new Captain and Quaker City has a new Music Director.

D'Amore 2012Fralinger Captain Thomas D’Amore lost a close election to Scott Wray.  Admirers of this band and folks who know Scott wish him all the best.  However, this is also a head turner to many since Thomas has won First Prize Captain 3 of the last 4 years and the band has won First Prize in 2 of the last 4 years.  Thomas has not only excelled as a Captain on Broad Street, but has been professional in his public role as Captain and giving of his time to charitable causes.

shcfeb11,2012 005Fran Rothwein is no longer Music Director of Quaker City String Band.   QC has selected Michael Spanky Brown for the role.  Spanky is another talented and hard working member of Quaker.  Fran has served as MD for nearly 20 years in one of the most successful periods of the band’s history.  He is a flat-out good guy, and talented, too.  Quaker also recently gave him an award for coming back from illness.

Well-meaning Mummers everywhere should recognize the quality and contributions of Thomas D’Amore and Fran Rothwein, and we should all hope that in whatever capacity they choose and Mummery allows, that we will see and hear more of them.

To the Winners!

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The 2013 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade launched the new year, Philadelphia-style! Thousands of strutters celebrating the new year and writing another chapter in the history of the Mummers tradition.

2-2013-Mummers-9906-150x150A salute to the Murray Comic Club for another big win and to Murray’s winning Captain Dennis Pellegrino.

The Goodtimers Comic Club scored in the comic brigade category with Rabble Rousers NYB and their theme, “Scrapitalism.” B. Love Strutters and Jesters take 2nd and 3rd. Last year’s winners, Two Street Stompers finish a strong 4th.

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Congratulations to Jackie Bam Bam of Golden Sunrise. The Alice Cooper of Mummery takes 1st Prize for his “Black Magic” in the Handsome Costume category of the Fancies.  John Lucas builds a great suit.

2-2013-Mummers-0556-150x150Hog Island takes first prize among the Fancy Clubs.

Golden Sunrise’s Matt Glovacz with that awesome engine and box car takes 1st Prize Fancy Captain.  The Hog’s “Polynesian Volcano Dancer” with Bryanne Hornung takes 1st in the King Clown category ,“Flight of the Monarch” with Bill Chischnijak wins King Jockey, and “Guardian of the Crown” with Jesse, Tabitha and Shannon win Handsome Trim.

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Bryson wins! Congrats Pop, and a tip of the bonnet to Bryson Captain Eddie “Gootch” Bryson for winning 1st  Prize Captain in the Wench Brigade Division. Bryson NYB takes 1st Prize among the wenches for their “Fight Like A Lady” theme in beautiful pink and white. Great job, great cause, heart-felt.

JHJ Saints finish a good 2nd; George Stewart’s Pirates a strong third.

2013-01-01_17-12-13_876In the String Band Division, Fralinger overcame the fire and last year’s un-Fralinger like finish in results and came “Back From the Dead” to win 1st Prize with their haunting, zombie like theme.  However, it was close. Just 6-tenths of a point separates Fralinger and number 2 Quaker City String Band, who delivered a textbook performance that will have fans of each club debating for years. Woodland performed as Champions and finished a strong 3rd this year. South-Philadelphia-String-Band-Mummers-Parade-2013-0916-150x150

South Philadelphia comes in 4th; Ferko 5th.  Hegeman with its exquisite 1960’s London love story finishes 6th. Avalon-7th; Aqua-8th; Polish American 9th and Uptown 10th. Rounding out the field are Pennsport, Duffy, Broomall, Durning, Greater Kensington,Greater Overbrook and Trilby.  Congratulations to Felicia Kaminski and Anthony Mulzet on their engagement!

Congratulations to Fralinger Captain Thomas D’Amore for winning 1st prize Captain again. Jack Hee takes 2nd prize again. Wonderful entrance, Jack, from the elephant.  Denny Palandro takes 3rd. Great performance by Ryan Radcliffe lifts him to 4th. Charlie Roetz takes 5th, followed by Charlie Nicholas, John Baron, new Captain Nick Magenta, and Ron Iannacone who completes the top ten.

Congratulations to South Philly Vikings and to new Captain, Gerald Roccia for finishing 1st in the Fancy Brigade Finale and 1st among Captains with their performance of “RU Game.” Downtowners take 2nd and Saturnalian 3rd. Avenuers are 4th and Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars are 5th.  Bob Fitzmaurice takes 2nd in the Captain’s category; Frank DeVito ,3rd.

Enjoy the moment!

The D in Dana

Dana Theil

You could certainly say that the D in Dana Theil stands for dance. Dana is co-director of the Pennsport School of Dance in South Philadelphia.  Her philosophy is straight forward: Have fun and, says Dana, “You’ve got to put on the best show that you can with what you have and that’s all I try to do.”  That just begins to describe the mother of 4 that so many Mummers appreciate.  Dana is the long-time choreographer of Fralinger String Band, which has won 8 First Prizes in a row. A piece of each of those prizes belongs to her.  While Fralinger is known for doing everything well, especially music, what often gets lost to observers is that while they are playing, they are often dancing.  In addition, the dancers and the captain must be among the best or first prize is out of reach for the band.  Current Fralinger Captain Thomas D’Amore won First Prize his first year as Captain under Dana’s guidance.  He says her personality, she easily gets along with everyone, helps her communicate with dozens of string band members.  Dana is also from a family of Mummers.  Many of those closest to her are connected to the Fancy Brigade, Jokers NYA.  Former Fralinger Captain Bill Bowen, Jr., says “I think she can look at a package and whatever production is being done that particular year, not only in dance but in band movement,” and help form the whole 4 and a half minute show.  Bill spotted Dana’s talent when she was a teenager.  In the first year he took her advice, he won First Prize.  Bill would go on to become the winningest captain on Broad Street.  This year Dana is once again offering her expertise to Fralinger, but she is also assisting Ferko String Band and Avalon String Band. Both bands know they are in great hands. Ferko Captain Anthony Celenza, for example, tells me, “”We’re hoping that she can be the good luck charm as she has with some of the groups she’s worked over the past.” Ms. Theil’s accomplishments are even more impressive when you realize that she is getting everyday working people, blue and white collar workers, not professional dancers, to dance well. Dana admits that is “the tricky part.” Her dedication and patience make it happen.  But that’s Dana, and not just with Mummers.  I also saw that genuine appreciation on display when I witnessed her working with little kids getting ready to put on a Christmas recital. Dana says, “Dancing to me is a release almost. I can be in the worst mood, sad, depressed about anything, but once I get into the studio and just start teaching and they (the kids) start making me laugh, it just brings a smile to my face. You know, that’s my whole life.”  The D in Dana can stand for dance.  But, it also stands for D-elightful, D-edicated, in D-emand, and D-ynamite.  Dana Theil is one more reason to love the Mummers.

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.