Bedazzled brigades and Satan on wheels: Philadelphians take over Broad Street for the 2024 Mummers Parade

The controversial parade is rooted in traditions that date back millennia.

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Mummers celebrating the New Year perform a sketch inspired by the Barbie movie

Mummers celebrating the New Year performed a sketch inspired by the "Barbie" movie at City Hall in Philadelphia, Jan. 1, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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Gray clouds did not dim the cheer of thousands of Philadelphians eager to ring in the new year the only way Philly knows how: by joyously flouting open container laws and making deals with the (cardboard) devil.

“This is a suit that the club has been putting out for decades at this point,” said Mike Carwile, as his father pointed behind him to a large feather-trimmed Satan on wheels. “We fixed it up a little bit this year.”

Mummers marched at City Hall in Philadelphia to celebrate on New Year's Day, Jan. 1, 2024.
Mummers marched at City Hall in Philadelphia to celebrate on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The father-son duo joined several other local families, lifelong friends, clubs of wenches, comics, and string bands who made the 1 1/2-mile-long march down Broad Street to mark the 124th annual Mummers Parade.

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The annual tradition is rooted in comic performances that date back millenia. But its recent history in Philadelphia is not without controversy.

In 2020, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney threatened to cancel the parade after multiple Mummers wore blackface. Four years earlier, organizers received similar backlash over accusations of racism, homophobia, and transphobia from parade participants.

This year, the bedazzled phalanx consisted of over 10,000 people — each with their own take on the Philadelphia tradition.

“We started this club in 2017 for one of my friends who passed away,” said Kevin Burkhardt, whose first New Year’s Day march was spent on his grandfather’s shoulders. “We’ve been comics the last six years, and this is our first year with the wenches, so it’s gonna be a really good year.”

Steve Miller joined Burkhardt’s club, M.G.K Outsiders, five years ago. He said the annual tradition takes dedication and a 4 a.m. wake-up call.

“My girl hates it,” Miller said. “I’m in bed by 8 o’clock. There’s no New Year’s kiss. Nothing.”

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Still, Miller said it’s the best day of the year.

“Every year I make it.”

Barbara Molden normally watches the parade on television from her home in Mount Airy.

This year she took an early train before dawn to stake out a prime viewing angle from a large concrete flower pot outside city hall.

“I was born in Philadelphia. I’ve been living here all my life. I’m 70 years old now and this is my first Mummers Parade,” Molden said. “I said for once I’m going to go look at this. So before I close my eyes and be buried I’ll say, ‘At least I got to see the Mummers.’”

Philadelphia's annual Mummer's Parade brought families to march down Broad Street on New Year's Day, Jan. 1, 2024.
Philadelphia’s annual Mummer’s Parade brought families to march down Broad Street on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The event included two five-minute performances from the Fancy Brigade at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

This year, one Mummer carried a MAGA flag in support of former President Donald Trump.

Mike Carwile is hopeful that this year’s parade, and his giant looming cardboard demon, will be a good omen for things to come.

“If today is any indication, it’s going to be a good year,” said Carwile. “It’s a beautiful day today. This is the best weather we could hope for. We’re really excited to be here.”

As for future resolutions?

“We’re resolved that next year we’re going to put a confetti cannon in the devil. That’s our resolution.”

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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