January 2, 2011
Our main reason for coming to Philly for New Years was the Mummer's Parade. Though both Myron and I grew up not that far away, neither of use really knew much about what it was. And even reading various things before getting here, we still weren't sure exactly what it was or how it worked. Frankly, after being here for it, I still can't say that I know - so take what I say in this post as info based on observations along with what we heard or read or were told and may not necessarily be exactly correct (if you happen to know, feel free to add to it!) The parade has been around for 100 years or more, and the best way I can describe it is like Mardi Gras, but much more elaborate and complex. There are clubs/organizations that have been around forever (and not) that spend the year creating costumes and routines and in some cases, very elaborate performances. There are 3 or 4 types of marchers - including "clowns" (not the traditional meaning/style), string bands, and fancy brigades. The string bands march in the street, with elborate routines and structures that act as sets with scene changes and all. The Fancy brigades are even more elaborate and were moved to the convention center 14 years ago. Our seats were on the side, and while the acts were definitely meant to be viewed from the front, the really impressive ones were still just as impressive from the side. One thing about the side was being able to see the layers of sets and stages and marchers that would be hidden from the front view (you can see those in a couple iphone panorama pics here.) Best of all is the "real" Mummers parade in South Philly on Two Street after everything else has ended. Its a completely unorganized street festival with people hanging out, drinking, eating in the neighborhood most of the clubs are based, and every now and then a truck drives through blasting music with the club marching behind, still in their full regalia. Its as real as a street party could ever be. Best of all, though the whole day from parade to street party, I never saw a corporate logo or sponsor. As big and elaborate as it all is, its still a true civic-created event that hasn't been corrupted by advertising. Thats as much as I'll attempt to explain the basics. The official parade starts at 9am but goes 8 or 9 hours, then moves to the convention center, and then the two street party, but the party is in the streets all over the city all day long. You can't walk a few blocks without seeing someone in their "clown" uniform who marched earlier or just people with beads or feathers or a mummer-type umbrella spreading the mood. People are in good spirits wherever you turn. Myron said this is probably the best and most festive place we've been on the actual New Years Day - and I think he's right.
Posted by Jon Berry at 12:20 PM