Colorful Mummers — in gold slippers, bloomers, sequins, and feathers, often toting parasols — danced and marched for an appreciative, celebratory crowd, as confetti, empty beer cans, fake paper money, and crushed New Year’s noisemakers swirled together on the ground.
Children stood in the winter chill, waiting on the bottom rail of metal barriers for the next performers to strut down Broad Street to mark the city’s 120th Mummers Parade. When the mood hit, some adult spectators grabbed colorfully costumed entertainers for a quick twirl to such songs as “Stayin’ Alive” and “Let’s Get Married.” Others jumped in to get selfies with those adorning the most ornate costumes.
As part of what is believed to be the nation’s oldest folk festival, the Philly-style entertainers often broke away from their prance to pass out beads to their admirers. Many slapped hand after hand like runners completing the Broad Street Run.
For some fans, the Mummers have been an annual tradition as far back as they can remember.
“I’ve been here every year since I’ve been born,” said Symantha Jones, 19, of South Philly. This year, she cradled her 7-month-old nephew, Ja’vonni Whittaker, for his first parade.
“It’s so festive,” she said. “It brings in the new year on a positive note.”
The crowds swelled for the fancy brigades, which performed Broadway-like skits in elaborate costumes, and the string bands, which impressed the crowds with embellished outfits and musical acts.
Four-year-old Drew Collacchi was awaiting them all, wearing his Halloween Paw Patrol fireman costume, thinking that would help him get in the parade.
“Last year, he saw it on TV and he said, ‘Dad, we’ve gotta go,” his father, Gene Collacchi, said, standing near Washington Avenue. But Drew was content to stand with his father, leaning over the barrier, waving at practically every performer who came his way.
Yolanda Coleman, 48, of West Philly, brought her 9-year-old cousin, Mikiyah Cole. The cousins accidentally ended up walking on Broad Street, smack dab in the middle of the revelry. When they suddenly realized, they stayed with it for a few blocks.
“I was like, ‘Let’s just live with it.’ Nobody told us no,” Coleman said. “Anyway, this is Philly. And it’s New Year’s.”
Sabrina Jenkins, 57, of South Philly, decided to join in — for a while. She placed her beer on the curb and ran up to a member of the Goodtimers Comics to do a little dirty dancing. She then took off her coat and jumped into the man’s arms and wrapped her legs around his waist. The crowd cheered.
As the parade progressed and imbibing increased, four people with signs and bullhorns walked up Broad Street, provoking the crowd.
One sign read, “Drunks Burn in Hell — Repent. Obey Jesus!” A woman with a beer in each hand ran up to the man with the sign and said, “Watch this.” And she chugged away.
Along the parade route, Mummers helped spectators get into the New Year’s spirit as if it were a free drinks happy hour that lasted all day.
After taking a generous shot of Fireball whiskey at about 10 a.m. from a Mummer in the O’Malley Wench Brigade, Alex Makuszewski, 49, of Somerdale, N.J., noted that he didn’t get a buzz.
“I’ve been drinking all day,” he said. “It’s New Year’s.”
“It’s a fun day. Today, everyone gets along,” he said.
The South Philadelphia String Band, a crowd favorite for their “Carouspell,” won its division.
Fans said they admired not only the performance but also the club’s strength and courage. Last year, in the early-morning hours of Jan. 2, three people, including two members of their band, were killed in a head-on collision when a car crossed the median on Packer Avenue.
The band members were Joseph Ferry, 36, of South Philadelphia, and Dennis Palandro Jr., 31, of Morton. Ferry had recently become engaged to Kelly Wiseley, 35, of Glenolden, who also died in the crash. Palandro was the son of Denny Palandro, the band’s captain. Palandro Jr.’s wife, Nicole, was critically injured but survived the crash.
On Sunday, the band members wore white T-shirts underneath their costumes that read: “For them South Philly 2020.”
In feathers, sequins, and ancient Egyptian-themed costumes, the Quaker City String Band paid homage to iconic Mummer Bob Shannon, who strutted with the string band for 46 years, serving as captain for 37. Shannon, an unmistakable 6-foot-10 Mummer force, died in March at age 71.
“He was a friend, brother, and inspiration to many,” said Jimmy Good, the current captain of the string band.
Shannon’s wife, Susan, watched as the group dedicated its “Awakening” performance to her husband and five other group members who died this year: Joe Volkert, James Shallow Sr., Charles Rowan Sr., Reese Davis, and William “Scat” Powers.
Standard for the Mummers Parade, politics — both local and national — made their way into the New Year’s Day revelry.
Multiple groups held “Trump 2020” signs while the Golden Slipper Brigade’s “White House on Fire” performance centered on impeachment and featured a Mummer in a Donald Trump mask shouting, “You’re fired.”
Meanwhile, members of the Froggy Carr Brigade held signs condemning Mayor Jim Kenney and District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Mayor Kenney disqualified the Froggy Carr Brigade from the competition after city staffers monitoring the parade route observed a marcher with Froggy Carr wearing all-black face paint. He called the action “abhorrent and unacceptable.”
Many members of the brigade wore orange, black, and white paint, and said they were going with the Flyers’ colors and those of the team’s mascot, Gritty.
Despite the controversy, the majority of entertainers and spectators said they relish in the Mummers tradition, saying it’s just so Philly.
At 73, Betty Basevski — better known as “Betty Boop” in her South Philly neighborhood — decided to march in the parade for the first time. She lives on Second Street, the heart of the Mummers’ alcohol-fueled after-party. She strutted with her nieces and nephews in the Bryson Brigade. The group’s theme was the roaring ’20s, to mark 2020.
“I’ve been talking about doing this for years, and now I’m here,” she said.
Whether by choice, like Basevski, or by accident, thousands of Philadelphians joined in the golden-slippered mummery Wednesday, a tradition that became an official celebration in 1901.
For Anthony Scott, 54, a painter from North Philly, the parade is something he wouldn’t miss.
“It brings the entire city together,” he said, as he stood on Broad Street near City Hall. “Every class of America is here. Children, mothers, fathers, white, black, rich, poor.