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Warm weather draws big crowd to Mummers Parade

The nearly 120 year old tradition helped ring in 2019 on an unseasonably warm Tuesday morning.

Members of the Saints Wench Brigade strut for the judges at Philadelphia City Hall during the Mummers Parade, New Year's Day in Philadelphia, PA on January 1, 2019.
Members of the Saints Wench Brigade strut for the judges at Philadelphia City Hall during the Mummers Parade, New Year's Day in Philadelphia, PA on January 1, 2019.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

New Year’s Eve might have suffered a bit of washout, but for Mummers, Tuesday broke just right.

By the time the Comics began to strut their stuff up Broad Street, the pavement was dry, temperatures had risen, and revelers were settling in for the show.

Janice Luyber and her daughter, Wendy DeVicaris, set up their camp chairs outside the Bellevue Hotel on South Broad Street to watch their first parade.

“My husband passed away in July, after 50 years of marriage,” said Luyber, of Mount Laurel, “and my daughter didn’t want me to be by myself for New Year’s.”

“This was always on my bucket list,” Luyber added. “But it’s always cold for the Mummers, and my husband would say, ‘Just watch it on TV.’ ”

Tuesday’s parade was also the first for David Kent, who has lived in West Philly for his entire 65 years.

“I’ve always seen it on TV,” he said. “But I had this feeling this year. Before I leave this planet, I wanted to see it.”

Three longtime friends who attend different colleges in different states celebrated New Year’s Eve together, woke early Tuesday, and traveled to Center City for the parade.

Regina Fiore, a 23-year-old Temple University student, wore a reindeer costume.

“Because at this parade it just feels right,” she said.

Fiore, a self-described “die-hard” Mummers fan, has been to the parade a few times but wanted her out-of-state friends to experience the spectacle for the first time.

What did they think?

"It's magical," said Annabelle Leskinen, 22, who lives in Indiana.

“I don’t know what the Mummers are, really,” said 21-year-old Hannah Robbins, who lives in Kentucky. “I just learned about them 12 hours ago, but it’s a lot of music and I love to dance.”

The mild start of 2019 - compared with last year’s bone-chilling kick-off - made it a whole easier to feel the love, whether this was your first parade or a lifelong tradition.

“From 10 degrees to 60 degrees is a huge difference. It’s a whole different feeling. Everyone was in a good mood,” said Leo Dignam, parade director and assistant managing director for the city.

The pleasant weather seemed to bring out spectators up and down the parade route, and the Mummers appeared to step up and respond in kind, the director noted.

“The performers were performing more. They seemed to stop at every corner," Dignam said.

Yet the parade managed to run smoothly, even punctually; the end time was actually two minutes under the goal of 4 p.m., he said.

Mummers in the four divisions — Comic, Fancies, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades — have worked all year for their big day. About 10,000 men, women, and children participated in the nearly 120-year-old tradition.

Many of the comic performances, a mainstay of the parade, were reined in this year following controversial performances in the past.

Mike Stermal, who is participating in his 73rd parade and works mainly with comic performances, reflected on how the Mummers have changed over the years, including shortening the parade route and pulling back on the comics’ more controversial themes.

“We’re comics, we mimic people. We make fun.” he said. “We can do it with Trump or Kenney or somebody like that, but everybody else gets offended. Everything has to be politically correct. And it takes away from it, I think.”

But there were still plenty of shots taken at the big guys.

For instance, a mummer from the Finnegan N.Y.B, under the Goodtimers Comic Division, with “Jay-Z” written on his back, held a leash attached to a mummer with “Mayor Kenney” emblazoned on his coat, and walked him like a dog.

Meanwhile, the Lobster Club, also under the Goodtimers, featured a Trump-like figure carrying a black box resembling a cassette tape, with a giant yellow letter P on it, before he was arrested by men wearing the letters FBI on their sleeves.

Other comics, such as the Vaudevillians N.Y.B, continued their legacy of making inclusive, socially conscious themes a part of Mummery since 2008. This year, the group, which marches with the Murray Comic Club, tackled school funding in a routine titled: “Schuyl Spirit: A Phair Phunding Phantasy" during its late-morning performance.

“We wanted to talk about how a community wants a thriving school system, and there are powers-that-be that are not allowing this to happen in one of the largest cities in the country,” said Sarah Micklow, a club captain.

Another crowd favorite was a segment by the Happy Tappers N.Y.B, also under the Goodtimers banner, which emphasized that not all heroes wear capes, including police officers and military personnel.

But at the end, they were swept aside by Philly’s favorite hero, Nick Foles. Or at least his Mummer equivalent.

Staff writer Kristen Graham contributed to this article.