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Mummers hot spots

How this year's Mummers Parade will be different, how it will not, and the best places to view it

I couldn't follow my original plan, which was to fill you in on what else would be new is this year's Mummers Parade.

There will be one more Fancy Brigade this year (11) contrasted with last year (10).

Remaining the same are String Bands (17), Comics (3), Fancies (2) and Wenches (8). What had been the Oregon Fancy club has transformed into a Wench brigade. (It's a lot easier to be a Wench.)

All above figures are provided by city Parade Director Leo Dignam, who adds that the weather looks good for January 1, but any forecast more than 10 days out is really shaky.

For the fifth year, no prize money from the city and that's unlikely to change and the city wants the parade to take 6 ½ hours, give or take a few minutes.

For my money, especially if you have kids, the best free place to be is at the corner of Broad & Washington. Why?

Lots of reasons: Portable toilets (bring your own toilet paper, just in case), food and beverage sales, bleachers, a DJ to fill in the dull spots, full performances by the String Bands and it is the only place you can see the entire parade.

That's because the Fancy Brigades march up Broad, but turn off at Washington to head for the Pennsylvania Convention Center for their indoor, climate-controlled performance. The rest of Center City does not see the Brigades.

I said Broad & Wash is the best free place to see the Parade. The best paid spot is in the Grandstand on JFK, between 15th & 16th, where the judging takes place. Tickets are $19 and are available at the Independence Visitors Center (6th & Market) or the Welcome Center (16th & JFK). To order by phone: 215-965-7676. (Get there early to snag some of the 500 forward-viewing seats. The other 700 are side views.)

Back in South Philly, bowing to popular demand, the String Band performance area has been moved back to Shunk, reversing the experiment with Ritter. Shunk is the only place south of Washington where there will be a full performance, with scenery and props. There may be music-only drills at other locations, pretty much determined by each band.

There are only five full-performance areas, and here they are:

Shunk, Washington, Pine, Sansom and JFK (judging).

Another small change is that this year the plan is for one (or more) drag queen to strut between Fancy Brigades. Last year, on the street, they marched behind the brigades and before the String Bands and a minor controversy erupted because the String Bands didn't want the appearance of being led by female impersonators.  (It's bad enough they get led by the Mayor, when he joins the parade, usually around the Bellevue.)

See you on the street.