After marching in the Pulaski Day Parade in Philadelphia, Polish American String Band celebrated its heritage in Port Richmond, and its relatively new clubhouse, by unveiling two walls of tile markers. Contributors included PHL17. Sto Lat!
If you ever pass Joe Blass on the street, turn around and follow him. You have to. As he walks, notes and stories compiled from 7 decades of String Bands, fall from his pockets. At least, that’s how I imagine it. Few have witnessed so much and known so many people involved in the crazy hobby called Mummery. Joe has lived it since he joined his first string band when FDR was President. “It’s a way for self-expression,” he says.
Ray Endriss (Captain of Quaker City SB from 1931 to1971) was a good friend of mine, ” Joe says casually. Joe Blass knew them all, the lions, the legends, the steady and the loyal. Wearing his Ferko red and even a bolo from an earlier theme, he looks back, fondly remembering his friendships with Bill Ewing, Robert Shannon, Sr., and Jim McKnight. He remembers how social bands were. Maybe more than today. Competition was fierce, too, says Joe, “If you didn’t have that feeling that you want to be a winner, you should stay home.” Joe Blass joined his first band in 1939. World War II was just beginning in Europe. Pearl Harbor was a couple of years away.
Joe would play center banjo for Woodland String Band. But, he quickly took up the saxophone, learning from a teacher who used to play with Tommy Dorsey. Joe tells stories of playing on Sunday afternoons and of learning from Captain Sam Jefferies. His first generation as a Mummer was fast and productive, including organizing Delaware County String Band in the late 1940’s. “Freshmen” was their theme in ’48.
As much as he respected his early Mummer experiences, Joe was drawn to one of the greatest contributors to the String Band epic, Joseph Ferko. “I was always a great admirer of Mr. Ferko himself as a Captain and also the music (that) different musical directors presented to the club.” Joe says he called Mr. Ferko one day and said I’d like to join your band. Says Joe, “The next Tuesday I was a member of Ferko String Band.” Displaying his Ferko patch, Joe says proudly, “It was the best music on Broad Street, ever. No one has ever created a sound like Ferko had.” And Joe heard it from every angle, as a fan standing along Broad Street, as a playing member and from 1969 to 1979, as Captain of the great band. From Woodstock through Disco, there was Joe leading Ferko.
Joe Blass worries that young people today are not having as much fun with Mummery and with the parade itself, not as much fun as folks used to have. It’s worth thinking about, if only because Joe said it. It may even be on a note falling from his life-filled pockets.
Very sad moment. Attending the viewing tonight for Ian Jerry, Sr. , at Galzerano Funeral Home in Northeast Philadelphia. Ian was most recently a member of Polish American String Band. The band is here tonight to serenade and support the family. Stephanie and the kids will always have a large Mummers family to lean on. Members of other clubs are filing through the home, remembering Ian’s humor and regretting that he was taken at so young an age.
It’s the people poll and the people have now spoken. The viewers of the 2015 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade have chosen the best String Band and best Fancy Brigade performing on New Year’s Day, 2015.
Quaker’s excellent music, busy scrap yard, great performance by Captain Good, interesting mirror effect, and of course, the big hug of Scraps the dog at the end, wowed the audience.
Polish American String Band came in second in the Viewers’ Choice voting. Fralinger String Band, which won the official judging on New Year’s Day, finished in the top five in the poll.
The number 1 Fancy Brigade in the Viewers’ Choice poll: Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars and its theme, “The Mysterious Island” with its big green spider, plant people, amazing full but fluid costumes, well executed choreography and a big scary bird finished first in the poll.
The Stars finished 2nd in the official judging on New Year’s Day, but first in the eyes of the viewers. Congratulations to Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars Captain Michael Adams and President Brian Smith.
South Philly Vikings, which took first in the official judging, finishes 2nd in the VC poll.
SugarHouse Casino General Manager Wendy Hamilton and PHL17 Senior Vice-President and GM Vince Giannini tonight at the casino in Fishtown announced the results of the voting which involved many thousands of votes cast.
A fun time was had by all at 11th and Moore in South Philadelphia Saturday night as Mummers filed by and filled the sidewalks paying respects to the 2015 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade Fancy Brigade Champion South Philly Vikings. Congratulations to Captain Pete D’Amato and all in SPV.
It was great seeing and hearing Ferko, Polish American, Woodland, Quaker City, Fralinger, Saturnalian, the Stars, Satin Slipper, the Spartans(thanks for the pic, ladies!), and more in a warm moment among the competitors of New Year’s Day.
And, Jessica Tursi, of the Vikings, came on over to me and let me know the newest Soup Day champ already has a plan for this December’s competition at the Mummers Museum. So, soup chefs, it’s never to early to warm that stove.
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 finalists in the 2015 SugarHouse Casino/PHL17 Viewer’s Choice Poll have been announced and SugarHouse is also planning on handing out thousands of dollars to some lucky Mummers clubs Tuesday night, January 20th, at 6:30 p.m.! Here’s what we know.
The 5 finalists in the Fancy Brigades are, in alphabetical order:
Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars
South Philly Vikings
The 5 finalists in the String Band Division are, in alphabetical order:
Each will receive the big Viewer’s Choice trophy and a check from SugarHouse for $1,000.
In addition, each of three lucky “mother” clubs across the 5 divisions will be the recipient of $1,000. To be eligible for those 3 drawings of $1,ooo, a club member has to show up at the Casino and report in at The Refinery area. Say what club you are with. The winning clubs will be drawn during the announcement ceremony.
So, the people’s voice will be heard Tuesday night and a total of $5,000 will be handed out to Mummers clubs. It’s going to be a good night. Mummers are asked to arrive at 6:30. Make sure you check in and let them know what club you represent.
Good luck to the finalists and thanks to all Mummers for a great parade.