A few months ago, Leo Dignam, the director of the Mummers Parade, got a call from the suburbs of Denver. The marching band from Arapahoe High School wanted to march with the Mummers in Philadelphia. Dignam thought that was a great idea.
But last week tragedy struck when a gunman shot a 17-year-old girl and then himself in the high school. He died in the school library; his victim remains in a coma.
“They are still going to come out,” said Dignam to a roomful of mummers, city officials, and reporters. “They are going to be the first marching band that comes up [Broad Street]. So we want you to give them a big, warm welcome when they get there on New Year’s Day.”
This year, the parade is all about inclusion. Following the visiting high school band will be the Freedom Band, a mostly brass ensemble featuring dozens of gay, lesbian, and transgender people. Not far behind will be a brigade of drag queens, then a brigade of drag kings.
Inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, a new Fancy Brigade — The Spartans — will make its debut as the first new Fancy Brigade in 14 years, bringing the total number to 11.
Many of the 80-plus members of the brigade — 64 of whom will be in costume on stage — moved over from the more established Fancy Brigades.
“A lot of guys were in predominately all-male groups, and lot of guys had daughters and wanted to make it a family-oriented group. So we set out to do that,” said Terk Gindville, the captain of the Spartans.
Starting a new Fancy Brigade from the ground up is no small feat. Gindville says the Spartans raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a clubhouse on Second Street and pay for the costumes and staging for their 4.5-minute performance. They will perform a Native American-themed routine.