Games On!


Tonight, the First Annual Game Show Night excites all who come to the Mummers Museum. Think your favorite game shows, add Mummers and Local 98 and you got real fun. Proceeds benefit the museum and 298, the union’s charity arm. Come on down!

2016 “Order of Enjoyment!”

IMG_6035The 2016 Order of March for the String Bands in the SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade is set. The bands drew their starting positions tonight in the annual random drawing at the Mummers Museum in South Philadelphia.

Here is the order for January 1, 2016.

1. Trilby
2. Polish American
3. Fralinger
4. Quaker City
5. Avalon
6. Pennsport
7. Uptown
8. Aqua
9. South Philadelphia
10.Greater Kensington
11.Greater Overbrook
13. Hegeman
17. Ferko

Heritage Division Poll Results

IMG_20120414_222909The results have been consistent since I posted the idea of a Heritage Division.  80-percent of the respondents to the question said they like the idea.

Heritage is a part of all Mummery, of course, but the ideas behind the proposed Heritage Division include celebrating historical or traditional aspects of Mummery, and perhaps involving several clubs that could use a break from the intense annual financial commitment.  This is not a welfare state proposal.   If a club has no support, that’s not what we’re talking about.  The presentation time would also have to be different in some cases, in order not to lengthen the parade.

There would be many details to work out, but it’s pretty clear, more discussion would be a good idea.  Perhaps the leaders of the various divisions or their appointed representatives would like to meet at the Mummers Museum this month to explore some of these.  I’d be happy to help moderate such a discussion.



Mummer Steve 2014-09-04 at 8.58.38 PM#ALSIceBucketChallenge Steve Highsmith takes the ice bucket challenge, outside the Mummers Museum, in the heart of South Philadelphia.

Greater Overbrook String Band and many of the giving Mummers community, cheered on as Mummers Museum President Rusty Martz and veteran String Band musician Jay Nestor doused Steve with the ice cold water, which stripped away the business veneer of the veteran broadcaster, revealing his true inner Mummerness.  At least, that’s our story.

Let’s find a cure for ALS and all neurological and muscular diseases!  Special thank you to Jay and South Philadelphia String Band for the fab suit.


Mr. Clown is Back in Town

FStermel110460778_10203110514056209_4193242498290580755_nFrank Stermel was a clown and that remains a wonderful thing.  Frank Mummed on 2 Street and on Broad Street pretty much all of his life.  He was so dedicated to Mummery and was so good at being a Mummer that he became known as “Mr. Clown.”  FStermel210486376_10203110514616223_3378558278823362925_nIn 1969, Frank was inducted into the Mummers and Shooters Hall of Fame.  Inside the Mummers Museum, it is Frank Stermel whose image still teaches us how to strut.

Frank started strutting on Broad in the mid-1920’s.  It was the age of Charles Lindbergh and of the first trans-Atlantic phone call.  Calvin Coolidge was President.  A silk dress could be had for $15.  The first chisel was taken to Mt. Rushmore, and  String Bands were still the “new” Mummers.

Frank went up Broad Street the first time as a page boy for the Wheeler Fancy Club.  For being a page, holding the long Captain’s Cape, Frank got a hot dog and a soda.  He would grow through the depression and increasingly take to strutting for his family and friends and his South Philadelphia neighborhood, and of course, up Broad on New Year’s Day.

Stermel became very good at it.  He rose to Captain of the Purul Comic Club.  Among his awards was a 1st Prize in the Comic Division in 1942.  He had a limitless love for the tradition and for making people smile.  He would parade with the Comics, then go down Broad Street, pick up with Aqua String Band and go back up the Street, then return yet another time down Broad to join the Avenuers Fancy Brigade for their Strut around the Hall.FStermel310494834_10203110515056234_6305980373638233081_n

He was a railroad man, working with the Pennsylvania Railroad until he retired in 1976, the year of the nation’s bicentennial, and the birth of the Mummers Museum. Frank was an early member of the Museum’s Board of Directors. Fstermel510430391_10203110515976257_5867684103164022851_n He was Sergeant at Arms for the New Year’s Mummers and Shooters  for 20 years.

Even after being given 6 months to live after a cancer diagnosis, he strutted for another 7 years, walking from 2nd and Reed to the Museum to entertain as Mr. Clown at parties and events.  Frank would pass away at the age of 71 in 1987.  By that time, he had strutted formally as a Mummer in 61 parades.


IMG_20140717_200046_687The nearly 40-year-old film exhibit in which he shows us all how to strut has now been restored and is running, and plans are in the works for a larger overhaul of the exhibit.  Much thanks go to his son, Michael, and his family, and to Tony Sprague, Donato Marino, Mike Roseman, Kevin Crooks and Mark Montanaro.  As the quality sounds of the Woodland String Band played outside the Museum, I was on hand for the re-dedication inside of the restored film display.IMG_20140717_193144_713  I also am a humbled recipient of the Mr. Clown award begun in Frank Stermel’s honor, given to people who are meaningful to the Mummer tradition in the heartfelt manner of Mr. Stermel.

Frank Stermel810487997_10203110514256214_5980221484615185363_nFrank Stermel was the working American, the family man, the neighborhood man at the heart of Philadelphia Mummery.  When you go to the Museum and see him strut, you are seeing hundreds of thousands of family members, of Philadelphians, connected not only through blood, but also through tradition, displayed in the simple joy of a street dance. Now, at the Mummers Museum at least, Mr. Clown, is back in town, ready to show the strut to new generations.

It is wonderful that Mr. Clown lives on, for it is at once community and personal.  Says Mike Stermel of his dad, “He was One of a Kind…I can go to the museum, push a button and “HE DANCES FOR ME.”

Soup Success!

IMG_20131222_133113_443Soup Day, or Hat Day, heated up early on 2 Street with the 2nd annual Golden Ladle Soup competition today at the Mummers Museum.  About a dozen Mummers Clubs took part.  IMG_20131222_133829_193The judges tasted great soups from Cara Liom’s “Tomato Basil,” to Quaker City’s “Pepper Pot,”  to South Philly Vikings’ “Pasta Fagioli,” to Froggy Carr’s “Manhattan Clam Chowder,” and more.   The event also included face painting for the kids and a visit from Santa.

And, the winner of the 2nd annual Golden Ladle contest is?   Donna Howlett of the JHJ Saints with her “Seafood Bisque.”  This is the second win for Donna.  She is so far the only winner of the contest. Congratulations, Donna!  The Jokers and their “Maryland Crab Shell” and Saturnalian and their “Beef Barley” finished 2nd and 3rd.

Soup Day Success


The annual Soup Day, or Hat Day, or Kazoo Day, among other names, has been highly successful along Two Street.  Members of Mummers Clubs rehearsed in the morning or worked in the clubs or warehouses. Some attended Mass at St. Peter’s. Then, in the afternoon, as the hours progressed a very family-oriented event occurred inside the Mummers Museum: the first annual Soup Day Soup Contest.Image

Congratulations to Donna Howlett, of the JHJ Saints who took first prize with her soup, a sausage and spinach delight.  Froggy Carr finished a close second with a cream crab corn chowder. Satin Slipper was a close third with its navy bean soup.  Here are the Howlett’s. They now own the inaugural Golden Ladle Trophy.









Pennsport String Band was among the early serenaders moving down 2nd Street and Third St. in South Philadelphia as

the daylight began to fade.


Wench Brigades and Fancy Brigades and other String Bands added to the festive atmosphere.


Members of Froggy Carr reminisced and anticipated parade day.  I enjoyed meeting Katie and Patrick Molony , who’s father, Tom,  left us this year.  The Frogs dedicate the upcoming parade to Tom Molony.


I was invited inside Avalon String Band’s clubhouse for their annual family Christmas Party. It was packed. What a wonderful collection of families.  I also presided over the induction of ten gentlemen into the Avalon String Band Hall of Fame.  Congratulations to the following men and their families: Matt Bochanski, the late Tom Cavanaugh, Marv Goodwin, Jim Kimrey, Frank McGugan, Kevin O’Brien, Bill Rinnier, Lex Rogers, Joe Urzillo, Sr., and Mike Vitanza.


Up and down Mummers Row there were good times and a hint of the fun day ahead on New Year’s Day. Dot Thompson, Franny Callan and Delores Macklin enjoyed the day.  Dot and Delores were soup judges, too.