For Polish band, parade binds the generations

Mummer Mark Danielewicz could operate a hot glue gun before he could tie his own shoes. His father was a mummer, both grandfathers were mummers, and, of course, his brother is also a mummer.

Now, with 24 Mummers parades under his belt, part of what drives Danielewicz to don that sequin suit is the competition of the parade. He won first prize on Saturday as captain of The Polish American String Band for leading his brigade up Broad Street. The band finished in eighth place overall.

But for Danielewicz and many others among the all-male Polish American String Band, it’s the deep intergenerational roots that keep them coming back year after year.

For musical director Joe Bujnowski, the history of the Polish American String Band traces back to his grandfather in 1933. Although he never met his grandfather Joseph Jankowski who founded the band, Bujnowski remembers stories of him from his mother. So at 10 years old, Bujnowski naturally became a mummer.

More than 40 parades later, Bujnowski compares his hobby of mummery to collecting rare stamps or oddly shaped shot glasses. As musical director, preparations for the next year’s parade begin in February and continue throughout the year, fine tuning a program and theme.

One of the younger members of the band, Eric Krajewski, 22, said he has 13 playing family members in this year’s band.

A recording secretary, some of Krajewski’s peers don’t understand his commitment to the band or his desire to dance and wave props during the parade.

But Krajewski insists, “Being a mummer is the most fun you will ever have, with your family, your friends, your brother, your cousins.”

Unlike most members of the Polish American String Band, Peter Ciarrocchi has never had an older family member in the band. But 21 years ago, he found a home with the Polish American String Band.

He said the motivation behind the Mummers is something unexplainable.

Now that his son Peter Jr., 13, has become a full-fledge member of the brigade, he can retire his mask and dancing shoes.

“I have passed it on to the next generation, and that’s what really counts,” Ciarrocchi says.

For photos of the Polish American String Band and other string bands from the 2011 Mummers Parade view the photo slideshow below.

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