Mummers Parade performs an about-face

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 Mummers strut their stuff during the 2011 parade. (AP file photo)

Mummers strut their stuff during the 2011 parade. (AP file photo)

An annual tradition in Philadelphia is turning on its head this year with an about-face for the Mummers Parade.

 

The parade on New Year’s Day has traditionally started in South Philadelphia and ended with judging at City Hall.

This year, though, the judging will come first, followed by the parade proceeding down rather than up South Broad Street. The change followed 10 months of deliberations with Mummers organizations, said parade director Leo Dingham.

“We decided to create this new route where they will be judged at 15th and Market, right outside the new Dilworth Park, the best and most beautiful backdrop the Mummers have ever seen,” he said.

“We’ll have bleacher seats. We’ll have thousands of seats for people to sit and enjoy the parade. We’ll also have a performance at the Union League, and they will go South on Broad Street after they perform here.”

The Mummers will then perform in front of the High School for Creative and Performing Arts before ending their strut at Washington Avenue. The aim, according to Dingham, is to have a better parade without the forced marches past empty sidewalks that punctuated the event in the past.

“This makes it a sleeker, tighter parade … it goes from a three-mile parade to a one-mile parade,” he said. “We’ll have more bleacher seats, more restrooms, more food trucks and restrooms, more amenities for people that want to come out.”

Some South Philadelphia residents are upset by the change, but Mummers Association president Bob Shannon said the idea is to preserve the Mummers tradition, not break it.

Shannon, a legend in Mummers lore, has participated in the parade for 54 years, 37 of them as captain of Quaker City String Band.

“We know it’s a change, and a lot of people don’t like change,” he said. “We work with change it’s just something that happens. We’ll make it work … the city is working with us which is going to be very nice, too.”

One of those unhappy about the changed parade route is Jimmy Tayoun. The former former city councilman and state representative, who now publishes the Philadelphia Public Record newspaper, said parting with tradition is a harbinger of bad things to come.

“They started the beginning of the end when the city really interfered from the very beginning. ‘You can only march here, you can only march there,'” he said. “They wanted to save money, they wanted to save time and that’s bull. C’est la vie, it’s the end of the parade as we know it.”

Shannon said people have to give the new route a chance.

“We had to change to try to bring the people back to the parade,” he said, acknowledging that he’s having a hard time with the new route. “It hurts not being in South Philly, the Shunk Street, the Oregon Avenue, and it’s really tough, but the major part of the parade is going to be Center City, so we’ll see.”

For purists, there still will be the party after the party on the Mummers’ beloved Two Street, as Second Street is known in South Philly’s Pennsport section. With the route change, Tayoun said he expects that party to be more crowded and noisier than ever.

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