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
12.Woodland
13. Hegeman
14.Durning
15.Duffy
16.Broomall
17. Ferko

Still Goin’ ‘Round the Hall

Mummers2004_captainstillIt appears it is time to go “down the street.”  It’s an historic change.  The parade route, the direction of the parade, what blocks are traveled, and where clubs will pre-position themselves, are likely to undergo a huge change,  larger than the Market Street years or the no longer  “up to Girard Avenue” years.  As often happens with change, it does not come easily for all.  However, any student of the history of the Mummers will recognize that change is a part of Mummery.  The question each will ask is, how much of changing the route is changing the heart of what it means to be a Mummer? Or, is the old route, while an important part of Mummer history, not really a core principle of Mummery?

I can tell you that the latest effort to change the SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade route picked up momentum last year. This is not a new thing. Most folks involved talked quietly about it last year and the first half of this year because there’s so much emotion tied up in tracing the steps their families took, and in the loyal fans who line Broad Street south of Mifflin.  In true Mum fashion, there are members of each division who think the idea stinks. But, contrary to some social media and other reporting, this is not the idea of just one division.  My read is that most leaders and many members of the String Band and Fancy Brigade divisions are the largest backers of the change, but I have found support, too, among members of the other divisions, including leadership.

SugarHouse Casino and PHL17 did not suggest the change and are not encouraging or discouraging it.  This is a Mummers idea.  To be sure, pressure over the years from the City of Philadelphia to shorten the parade and make it faster, has had an effect, but the idea for this change started with the Mummers.

Philly Naked Bike RideSources say the City of Philadelphia likes the proposal, though no final route has been published. But, here is what it looks like now. The leaders of the 5 Mummers Divisions and the City of Philadelphia are planning to reverse the route and shorten it.   The Mummers will still go “‘Round the Hall,” just south.   The 115th annual SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade would start near City Hall, near 16th or 15th Street and JFK.  The clubs would be judged at 15th and JFK.  They then would proceed south around City Hall, down Broad Street, ending at Washington Avenue.  There was a proposal to march down South Street. That was nixed a few months ago.

Mummers who support the new route down Broad say it would allow for a more free-flowing, nonstop parade, and they say it removes some blocks where parade watchers just don’t live or go to any more. The evolution to a more prop-driven parade in the String Bands also helped create gaps along the older, longer parade route. The String Bands will likely pre-position themselves along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

After they are judged, they will leave their props and continue the rest of the route without the props, allowing for more of a continuous musical parade. Judging for all divisions would be done first in the parade, not at the end. Other divisions will arrive near 16th and JFK from other points.  There is one less Fancy Club this coming parade. Hog Island is now in the Comic Division. Golden Sunrise carries the Fancy banner.  We’re told this new route would also make it easier for the Fancy Brigades who perform indoors at the PA Convention Center to march outside, though they’ll not perform their show outdoors.

South-Philadelphia-String-Band-Mummers-Parade-2013-0902The start time of the parade could shift 30 minutes to an hour earlier, or remain the same.  While the new parade route would end at Broad and Washington, community groups along Washington Avenue and in Pennsport will be examining how the new route might effect them, if at all. These and other details above have not been finalized.

For Mummers, the biggest concerns about shortening and reversing the route are the change of a long-standing tradition of going “Up The Street” and the effect it might have on South Philadelphia, especially on businesses and on older residents who might not travel to Center City to see their beloved Mummers. Yes, there have been some good parties along that stretch.  South Philadelphia is still home to most of the clubhouses of the Mummers, so New Year’s Day and that evening will still have Mum presence.

MUMMERS_ROWThis historic change looks like it has all the momentum needed to happen. I have spoken to some of the leaders who endorse this movement and their motivations are clear. They say times have changed and that by changing this route they can make a better parade for parade watchers, tourists, the city and the Mummers who are strutting, a better parade for the 21st Century. But for a city that not long ago said no one could build higher than William Penn, change does not come without a little initial discomfort.  Changes in a 115-year-old tradition probably should not come easily.  On the bright side, I can see some good Comic satire already in the works.

Out of the Spotlight, for now…

2014-aqua-string-band-0050Aqua String Band Captain Ron Iannacone has told me today that he is stepping down as Captain but hopes one day to return to that role.  He will remain active with the string band as an advisor, mentor and friend.  The band will make a decision about its next Captain later in the month.

Ron’s decision is influenced mainly by a grueling professional work schedule that increasingly  has involved travel.  This is something that casual Mummers watchers sometimes do not recognize about Mummers.  Mummery is a hobby and yes, a way of life, but it is demanding.  Ron has managed to work and still devote countless hours to Mummery for a long time.  He’s been with Aqua since 1991. He first led Aqua up Broad Street as Captain on a horn-freezing January of 2009. It was the start of the renaissance of Aqua.

2014-aqua-string-band-0859Ron Iannacone is passionate about Mummery, about String Bands, and especially his Aqua String Band.  You can tell that he thoroughly enjoyed being Captain. He has always lived the role as a leader on the street and behind the scenes.  He knows the importance of the parade watcher.  He loves that interaction.  I believe that as much as he realizes that stepping down was a necessary decision, it was still a very difficult one to make.  Here is part of what he wrote to me today.

“There are no words to describe my appreciation to all of the individuals who have … supported me over the past 6 years as Captain.  You pushed me to be my best, and to give you all that I could.  Aqua has accomplished amazing things in a short time.  We turned a 15th place band into a contender, we turned low membership into “oh my god we’re gonna need a bigger club!”, we went from a few performances a year to over 200 in 6 years.  And the best part: The future is even brighter, the opportunities even better.”

Thank you, Ron Iannacone, Captain of Aqua String Band.

2013 Show of Shows

The wows kept coming this afternoon at the annual Philadelphia Mummers String Band Association Show of Shows. Thousands of fans clapped, cheered and strutted with the Captains and the 16 bands of the String Band Association. The show began with Polish American and Captain Nick Magenta heralding what was to come with their theme, “A Rio Good Time.” Trilby and Uptown followed. Then Greater Overbrook and Duffy. Greater Kensington, Broomall and Durning finished out the first half. Captains and members of the bands paused at intermission to talk with the crowd and be photographed with the fans. Lots of interaction in the people business that is the Mummers.
The 2nd half started with a rousing performance by Aqua and Captain Ron Iannacone. The imaginative Hegeman followed. Then Avalon, Ferko, South Philadelphia, Woodland, Quaker City, and 1st Prize Fralinger. Then came the Captains in a finale capping the 3 hour show. This may have been the last Show of Shows in Boardwalk Hall. Next year the show could be in North Wildwood or Philadelphia.
Congratulations to Hall of Fame inductees Dan Marakowski, of Fralinger, Dan Spencer, of Ferko, Mark Danielewicz, of Polish American, and Joe Volkert, of Quaker City String Band.

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2014 “Order of Enjoyment”

580515_2719093516002_1816954742_1678345_765651564_nThe Philadelphia Mummers String Bands tonight have selected the order in which they will march in the 2014 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade!

The new rules for selecting the order mean that the bands that marched in the 1 through 5 positions in 2013, would automatically not be in that first group of 5 in 2014.  Those bands, Greater Overbrook, Durning, Trilby, Broomall and South Philadelphia, selected first and drew from balls that were numbered 6 through 17.

After they picked, the other bands then selected from the remaining unchosen positions 1 through 17.  They selected in the order of the 2013 prize finish, so Fralinger, for example, was the first pick in this group, or the 6th overall to pick.  There was no trading or purchasing of positions. Here is how it ended, the 2014 Order of March, or as I say:

 

The “Order of Enjoyment”

1. Woodland

2. Fralinger

3. Polish American

4. Avalon

5. Ferko

6. Uptown

7. Trilby

8. South Philadelphia

9. Greater Overbrook

10. Aqua

11. Hegeman

12. Quaker City

13. Pennsport

14. Broomall

15. Durning

16. Greater Kensington

17. Duffy

Now, let the theme selection, planning, budgeting and fundraising begin!

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!

Thank You

I struggled in the last 24 hours over what to say about Sunday night.  The reason is because I became part of what I was writing about.  I usually try to avoid that.  But this is different.  The annual Philadelphia Mummers String Band Association Awards Banquet took place at the Union League in Center City, Philadelphia.  Nearly 500 people were on hand, mostly from 16 String Band Clubs, but also there were Congressman Bob Brady, Philadelphia Deputy Recreation Commissioner Leo Dignam and others, including representatives from other divisions in Mummery, the grand Philadelphia tradition of music, costume, entertainment, fun, family, community and freedom. 

Applause for John Pignotti (center)

Recognition was bestowed on the bands and captains who performed on New Year’s Day, especially the top finishers, Quaker City String Band and Polish American String Band Captain Mark Danielewicz.  New officers were introduced and began their year of official duties, led by new President of the String Band

Marty Good & Jim Julia

Association, Marty Good.  Farewell and deep thanks were extended to Mr. John Pignotti, who served as President for 12 years.   Also that evening, several people were admitted into the Philadelphia Mummers String Band Association Hall of Fame.  First to be inducted was the late Jim Jaep, formerly of Quaker City, Greater Overbrook and South Philadelphia String Band, a former Philadelphia Park Police mounted police officer, a great musician and arranger, a great teacher and a great father. His son, Mike, accepted.  Wayne Boyd, of Quaker City String Band, has now been inducted. The words dedication, reliability and loyalty are synonymous with Wayne Boyd.  Jim Tater, Sr., entered the Hall Sunday night.  Jim started as a drummer with Greater Kensington String Band and has worked in the Association.  He is one of the organizers of the original Mayfair/ Holmesburg Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Jerry Crompton, of Avalon String Band for nearly 30 years and several bands before that, followed Jim into the Hall of Fame. Musician and mentor come to mind with Jerry. Next was Marty Good, the new President and a Mummer for decades mostly with two bands, Quaker City now, and previously Ferko String Band.  History was made Sunday night.  The first two women are now admitted into the Hall of Fame.

Peg, Ted, Cheryl & Jerry (courtesy Peg Rullo)

Cheryl Crowe and Peggy Rullo, both of Duffy String Band, were inducted.  The daughters of the late Henry Kunzig have served not only to sustain and improve their own band, but also have long lifted the performance of other clubs.  Cheryl is now the Sgt. At Arms of the Association.  Peg is getting ready for her 37th strut up Broad Street.

The String Band Association then surprised me. Stunned me, really.  In nearly 20 years of broadcasting the Mummers I have witnessed the respect shown others by the Association and by individual clubs.  I see the charity work and the family and community togetherness they engender.  But, I did not expect this.  I am now a members of the Philadelphia Mummers String Band Association Hall of Fame.  In the 55 years since the Hall of Fame was established only 3 people not a member of a club have been inducted.  Mr. Joseph Brogan and Congressman Robert Brady preceded me.  Though I have not been a member of any one club, I feel a part of every one and of every man, woman and child who heads up the street.  Thank you.

Please enjoy some of the photos I took at the Philadelphia Mummers String Band Association Awards Banquet.