Thousands line sidewalks for annual Mummers Parade in Philadelphia

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The Joey Howlett Jr. Saints brought their "Hillbilly Jamboree" to the streets outside of City Hall at the Mummers Parade. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

The new year in Philly kicked off with the annual Mummers Parade as thousands of people gathered from Broad Street to Washington Avenue to partake in the century-old staple.

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Bryson Wench Brigade members Chelsea Haigh, left and Virginia Payne dance along South Broad St. (Jonathan Wilson for WHY)
Bryson Wench Brigade members Chelsea Haigh, left and Virginia Payne dance along South Broad St. (Jonathan Wilson for WHY)
Members of the Pirates Wench Brigade dance to Golden Slippers played by the Whoa Phat Brass Band. Both groups are bassed in South Philadelphia. (Jonathan Wilson for WHY)
Members of the Pirates Wench Brigade dance to Golden Slippers played by the Whoa Phat Brass Band. Both groups are bassed in South Philadelphia. (Jonathan Wilson for WHY)

A cacophony of sound from string bands and brass sections echoed through the streets around City Hall, as the fumes of U-Hauls and gold spray paint filled the air.

Thousands of the city’s finest Wenches, Comics, and Fancies performed for the Philadelphians packing the streets and sidewalks.

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(Jonathan Wilson for WHY)
(Jonathan Wilson for WHY)
Members of the Downtowners Fancy Brigade perform Riddle With Crime based on villains from Batman 
(Jonathan Wilson for WHY)
Members of the Downtowners Fancy Brigade perform Riddle With Crime based on villains from Batman (Jonathan Wilson for WHY)

Groups tend to spend the previous 365 days planning out their showcases for the New Year’s Day event, including Anthony Archangelo, who marches with the Joey Howlett Jr. Saints. He’s been marching since 1978.

“I got started when I was a kid, and ever since then I got hooked,” Archangelo said.

Anthony Archangelo has been marching in the Mummers Parade. His group, the Joey Howlett Jr. Saints, paid tribute on Jan. 1, 2023, to some of the group's friends that passed away last year. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
Anthony Archangelo has been marching in the Mummers Parade. His group, the Joey Howlett Jr. Saints, paid tribute on Jan. 1, 2023, to some of the group's friends that passed away last year. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

His group paid tribute to some friends of the group who passed away in 2022, with their “Hillbilly Jamboree.”

“It’s a very good day, the fun, the family, the friends,” Archangelo said. “It’s like, our group’s like a family and friends’ group. We’re all family friends here and it’s just good to hang with them all day long.”

Costumes and props aplenty could be found at the Mummers Parade on Jan. 1, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
Costumes and props aplenty could be found at the Mummers Parade on Jan. 1, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
Brian Creamer with an Eagles' Jason Kelce Jjersey greets the crowds on South Broad St. (Jonathan Wilson for WHY)
Brian Creamer with an Eagles' Jason Kelce Jjersey greets the crowds on South Broad St. (Jonathan Wilson for WHY)

Fellow Philly lifer Diane Barishek started marching when she was a kid, too, and now her kids are marching in the parade wearing attire inspired by Monsters Inc.

“I love the Mummers,” Barishek said. “I live for New Year’s Day. I really do.”

Thousands of people participate in the Mummers Parade each year, including this group who wore costumes inspired by Disney's Monsters Inc. on Jan. 1, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
Thousands of people participate in the Mummers Parade each year, including this group who wore costumes inspired by Disney's Monsters Inc. on Jan. 1, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
Thousands of Mummers of varying ages took part in the parade on Jan. 1, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
Thousands of Mummers of varying ages took part in the parade on Jan. 1, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

The parade not only took place on Betsy Ross’ 271st birthday, but also on the same day the Eagles played the New Orleans Saints at home.

Thousands of Mummers of varying ages took part in the parade on Jan. 1, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
Thousands of Mummers of varying ages took part in the parade on Jan. 1, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
Joe Fox, left and Kevin Werner pose with painted faces. The pair are members of Cara Lion Wench Brigade.(Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)
Joe Fox, left and Kevin Werner pose with painted faces. The pair are members of Cara Lion Wench Brigade.(Jonathan Wilson for WHYY)

The parade’s been running for more than a century, but it hasn’t remained free of controversy, as it has had multiple incidents deemed racist, xenophobic, and transphobic. One incident in 2016 led to Mummers having to undergo “sensitivity training.” In 2020, Mayor Jim Kenney ordered the Mummers to stop wearing blackface or else the event would’ve been canceled.

Swedish immigrants introduced Mummery to Philadelphia, but Mummer activities actually date back to the Ancient Egyptians.

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