In the New Year, Mummers will have a second parade featuring string bands marching in Manayunk for Mardi Gras.
About a dozen or more string bands — the exact number is not yet determined — will march down Main Street Feb. 22 for a celebration doubling as a fundraiser for the troubled Mummers legacy.
“An average string band, for production for New Years Day, cost between $80,000 and $100,000, for each band. We raise it all on our own,” said Tom Loomis, president of the Philadelphia Mummers String Band Association. “When we have somebody say, ‘we want to help you raise money,’ we want to listen.”
The Mummers have taken a hit in recent years as the city of Philadelphia has cut prize money and asked for the parade to pay for more expenses. In response, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, D-Philadelphia, created the Philadelphia Traditions Fund, which seeks private donations to sustain the New Years Day parade.
Like any working band, a Mummer String Band plays gigs year-round for fun and — mostly — for pay. Loomis’ own band, Woodland, performed in 42 parades this year, sometimes traveling to other states and countries.
This parade in Manayunk will be different because it will feature only Mummers, more closely resembling the legendary New Years Day parade.
“Anytime we can get close to people and they can see what we’re all about, that’s when Mummers are in their true element,” said Loomis.
Participating bands are guaranteed a base pay, with additional money generated from the sale of VIP access tickets, allowing entrance to special events and deals from neighborhood merchants. The parade itself will be open to everybody.
The parade will be coordinated and paid for by the Manayunk Development Corporation, which anticipates generating tens of thousands of dollars for the string bands.
“We’re writing the check to support this — we’re getting the permits, we’re cleaning up the streets, this will not cost one penny of taxpayer dollars,” said Jane Lipton, executive director of the MDC. Her board voted unanimously to host the Mummers. “They get it,” she said.
The Mummers have a history of parading in Manayunk for the Canal Day, a now-defunct street festival. Lipton says this parade, taking place from 10 a.m. to noon on a Sunday, will be more family-friendly. The bars on Main Street will be told not to sell alcohol outside, and police are promising to enforce open-container laws.
“This is great for our district. It highlights our district in the dead of winter, which we’re always happy to do,” said Lipton. “I’m not going to lie, I’m a promoter.”