FIRST It was the Pope Fence, now it's the Mummers Fence.
Not a fence, really, but, citing security concerns, there will be steel sidewalk barricades keeping viewers on the sidewalks between City Hall and Washington Avenue during the Mummers Parade.
That was the word handed down by city parade director Leo Dignam, who has met with U.S. Homeland Security - which is dramatically enhancing security for the 2016 Mummers Parade. (Call this the ISIL effect.)
The parade is set for Friday, Jan. 1, weather permitting. (If the weather's bad, it will be delayed until Saturday, Jan. 2.)
"Tell your kids not to pet the police dogs, they will be working," Dignam said at the Wednesday night pre-parade "roundup" staged for all Mummers divisions and clubs.
The security "is not a great situation," Dignam said, explaining that every vehicle to be used in the parade must be reported in advance, complete with driver's name and date of birth, make and model of vehicle, license plate number and cellphone for driver.
If the vehicle isn't on the list that will be distributed to police, it will not get on the street. "Police ain't messing with this," Dignam warned.
Cops will also check visible credentials of parade participants and will eject those not showing them.
He also cautioned Mummers not to share their credentials with outsiders and not to accept anything from parade viewers, fearing it might be dangerous.
New in 2016 will be the Philadelphia Division, of "outside" groups including drag queens, a drill team and Hispanic music groups.
"Welcome them to the parade," Dignam requested of the traditional groups.
This January, the Wench Brigades will follow the small Fancy Division (which follows the parade-starting Philadelphia Division) and precede the meandering Comic Division. The Wenches complained they had to wait too long this year and that "kept them from whatever business they had to do," said Dignam with a sober smile. As a former Comic, I can tell you a later start is a better start as there are more spectators the later (and warmer) it gets.
On another matter, Dignam said the tradition-shattering 2015 parade, running south from City Hall and ending at Washington Avenue, the front step of Mummers Country, was a success because everyone "did a terrific job of cooperating." (Even though many in the South Philadelphia base felt they wuz robbed.) The southward (and abbreviated) route will be used again in January.
A moment of silence was offered in respect to the passing of Jim Julia, who was longtime president of the Downtowners Fancy Brigade, the president of the Fancy Brigade Association and, importantly, instrumental in moving the Fancy Brigades indoors to the Convention Center. He was a visionary and a gentleman.
- Stu Bykofsky