Heritage Division (Poll results update)

MUMMERS_ROWIt’s time for a Heritage Division. The Mummers Parade has historically had 2 to 5 divisions. Currently they are the Comics, the Fancy, the Wench Brigade, String Band and Fancy Brigade. Let’s postulate that it’s time to create a new division that does NOT add to the length of the parade, but which preserves the historical significance of the parade, allows some clubs an opportunity to have a less financially stressful year and gives the public more of what they want.  There’s a poll question for your input below. UPDATE: Poll results so far are 78 percent in favor of the idea; 22 percent opposed.)

The 21st Century has brought with it financial stresses, city regulations or goals, changing ideas of entertainment, and a new reality of how busy families are, including multiple jobs and how far apart we live from each other. Parts of Mummery, contrary to other media reports, are growing.  However, some other displays, especially ones that require people spending a lot of their own money, are crunched.

The City of Philadelphia definitely does not want the Mummers to assemble as they did in the 1800’s. It wants to contain the excesses that were problems before the creation of the Broad Street parade.  Most officials do not want to get in the way of the freedom to assemble and they see the tourism value.  Most Mummers, too, like the idea of parading on Broad Street, being at the Hall, and giving a show for all on New Year’s Day.  But, some clubs have been living on the edge of existence, and outside influences, or stresses, are major reasons why. So, what is a non-corporate, people parade to do?

Here’s a starter idea for discussion. Create a Heritage Division of 3 to 10 clubs each year. The clubs in this division would not have to field as many entries and the rules about their size would be adjusted. The time of their performances could also be shortened. They might not even be judged, though a different judging system could be worked out. The Clubs in this division would revel in the history of the parade.  Yes, we’d see feathers and back pieces and more.  We might be able to start a fundraising effort in conjunction with the Museum, in which part of the proceeds would go to the clubs in this new division.

Fralingerspinningbanjo2015-mummers-parade-6378So, how would it have looked on this New Year’s Day?

Maybe Trilby String Band would have fielded a band if it did not need 40 players and did not have to create a Broadway routine.

Maybe another string band or 2 would liked to have saved money for a year and volunteered to be in the division.

Maybe the String Band Association holds a lottery, if there are no bands volunteering, though I think some bands would love to live in this division.

Maybe a brigade from Murray or Goodtimers volunteers to go in.

Maybe Hog Island believes it could return to the Fancy Heritage, if some adjustments were made.

Golden Sunrise could take up permanent residency there, preserving the Fancy within Mummery.

A big wench brigade could take a year in there.

Maybe a Fancy Brigade even takes a turn.

Maybe we have a youth band.

Maybe we have the Hardly Ables.

Maybe there is an open opportunity for a new club to try the parade, allowing new voices to experience Mummery.

Maybe BrassBands2015-mummers-parade-5860a new club in a division first would have to march in the Heritage Division for a year.

Maybe a guest string band from another state comes in.

Maybe a brass band rocks the house for 2 minutes.

Maybe none of the clubs or divisions mentioned above would want anything to do with this proposed Heritage Division, but, I think it’s worth talking about.  This is not about artificially propping up unsupported clubs.  Clubs have always come and gone in Mummery and that will continue.  But, the Mummers exist in a manufactured world where imposed rules affect their existence.  This Heritage Division idea is aimed at supporting positive tradition and cultural significance.

Whether it would be 3 clubs or 10, whether they march all at once in line or are sprinkled throughout the parade, whether they only appear on tv or do the whole route, the idea is to ease financial pressure, keep the parade flowing, and retain and enrich the historical display of this great Philadelphia folk tradition.

Please take part in the poll below and give me your opinion.

2015 String Band Order of Enjoyment

Here’s something to crow about.  The String Band order of March.   2014IMG_20140101_151519_118It’s been a busy few days as members of the Philadelphia Mummers String Bands debate within their clubs how to approach their themes and production costs for the 2015 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade.  They’ve had nearly a week to digest the official Order of March, or Enjoyment as I say.  (See Order below.)  The order was chosen by lot at the Mummers Museum. Traditionally, most bands view going up early in the order as a disadvantage in terms of judging.  The judges work hard to make sure that they are not under-weighting early performers, but the general belief persists among string band members that going early hurts your finishing position.  Most of the results seem to support that belief, but you have to remember that through much of parade history many of the power bands, or bands that finished higher in the previous year, used to have more say as to what position that they marched in. They usually chose the back half of the division.  Also, I found very gratifying in  the 2014 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade the effort in production, rehearsal and parade day performance of bands that went up in the first several positions but looked at doing so as a positive challenge and as a test of professionalism.  Those bands, from Woodland going up first to South Philadelphia marching in 8th position, were outstanding.2014aIMG_20140101_153411_769

So, below is the 2015 Order of Enjoyment.  No themes are public yet.  But, the past week has been full of string band members assessing their chances and trying to figure out how to play the order to their advantage.

  2015 String Band Division Order of March1.  Uptown
2.  Greater Overbrook
3.  Duffy
4.  Durning
5.  Trilby
6.  South Philadelphia
7.  Aqua
8.  Greater Kensington
9.  Fralinger
10. Polish American
11. Broomall
12. Quaker City
13. Woodland
14. Pennsport
15. Avalon
16. Hegemen
17. Ferko

Why There are Mummers

Image

3 Maminskis, father and 2 sons, are about to strut up Broad! Congratulations to Kenny Maminski, who’s been at it for nearly 4 decades. This pillar of Aqua String Band will be strutting among family on New Year’s Day. Son, 14-year-old Eddie, plays sax and has been parading since he was 7. This parade, 10-year-old Andrew will take his sax up the street for the first time. Kenny’s wife, Marie, is helping with the band’s choreography. Daughter Samantha lends her support. Perhaps the greatest gift of Mummery is the opportunity it provides to be a touchstone for families. The Mummers parade, a Maminski family affair on New Year’s Day.

Here Come the Cromptons

Jerry Crompton is a fine sax player and he was a great music director for Avalon String Band. Tough. He was tough. Jerry is one of the most recent inductees into the String Band Hall of Fame.  Son, Jim, has carried on well in his place as Music Director since 2007, while dad still marches. Younger Jerry is also in Avalon and is showing there’s no drop-off in quality with later versions of the Crompton model. And then, of course, there is Jeff, who is formerly of Avalon, and lately of Fralinger. Jeff is Presentation Director of one of the finest bands to walk up the street. But, more importantly, all the Cromptons are prime examples of the quality of talent, the dedication to Mummery and the great families that are the Mummers. They touched many bands,  starting with Aqua.   There’s Polish American, Ferko and more that they were directly with or influenced over the years.  But the biggest connection is Avalon.  It was an honor for me to speak with Jerry and the boys. In this photo the late, “Big Ger”, towers over Jerry and the kids. I talk with the Cromptons Sunday, December 25th, Christmas Day, at 11:30 a.m. on NBC10 at Issue. The program also features the great Mummers Chorus, singing Christmas songs, and I highlight the story of Julia Parmisciano (go Jesters!) and Philadelphia’s Firefighter of the Year, Ed Verbitski, of Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars.  Happy Holidays everyone!  And remember, coverage of the 2012 SugarHouse Casino Mummers parade begins at 9 a.m. New Year’s Day with “Breakfast with the Mummers.”

2012 Order of Enjoyment

As the 2012 Sugar House Mummers Parade prepares to step off on New Year’s Day, the clubs also do so with the order of their appearances on their minds.  It’s a psychological game for some who believe that going too early ensures a lower score from the judges and that going in the last half, especially the end, ensures better scoring.  Some string bands think going about 2-thirds of the way in is perfect. For 20 years of broadcasting the parade I make notes and keep a private scoring sheet, but I really look forward to seeing every club and each performance.  The more you know each Mummer, the more you witness every club planning, rehearsing, serving their neighborhoods, giving time to charity and just trying to enjoy liberty and give folks a good time on New Year’s Day, the more you love every strut.  The Order of Finish is less important to me than the Order of March.  In the end, it’s the people parade that matters.  So here is the Order of Enjoyment.

The Comic Division around 9:45 a.m. steps off at Broad and Washington and heads north to 16th and JFK.  The Goodtimers will lead the Comics, followed by Landi and returning champion, Murray.

The Wench Brigade Division follows with its 8 clubs.  Riverfront leads off, followed by Oregon, O’Malley, Cara Liom, Bryson, Pirates, Saints and Froggy Carr.

The Fancy Division follows with Hog Island leaving Broad and Passyunk about 10:30 a.m.  Golden Sunrise will follow.  Both clubs should be up at 16th and JFK between about 12:30 to 1:30.

The String Band Division hits the street next.  There are 17 bands this year.  Here is their order.

Duffy is first, stepping off from Broad and Shunk around 10 a.m., followed by Fralinger, Broomall, Aqua, South Philadelphia, Polish American, Uptown, Ferko, Quaker City, Avalon, Greater Kensington, Greater Overbrook, Trilby, Pennsport, then Durning, and Hegeman and Woodland round out the 17. 

Inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Fancy Brigade Division wows the crowds in two shows. The first is at Noon. The second is at 5 p.m.  You’ll see a show on PHL17 between 8pm and 10pm. Here’s the FB order. Downtowners, Saturnalians, Avenuers, South Philly Vikings, Golden Crown, Jokers Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars, 2nd Street Shooters, Satin Slipper and Clevemore. 

Go forth and Mummerfy.

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.

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.

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