FOR YEARS, Mummer super-fan Joe Biondo has used Twitter and Facebook to discuss all things Mummer underthe moniker "Mr. Mummer," and it has earned him about 3,000 followers between the two social media sites.
This year, Biondo, 35, made his fandom official when he created his own Mr. Mummer website (mrmummer.com) where he updates his readers year-round on Mummers news, public appearances and gatherings while also dishing out a healthy dose of Mummers history.
Biondo, of the city's Somerton section, is not a Mummer. The software developer calls himself a "hard-core Philadelphian" who saw a need for a centralized place for news for one of his favorite Philadelphia traditions.
A Bridesburg native, Biondo remembers falling in love with the Mummers while watching the parade with his mother and two brothers as a kid.
This year, Biondo, who became a father for the first time on Dec. 10, will be "strutting with the baby at home" on Jan. 1, updating readers on the parade's progress through his site and his social media outlets.
He spoke with Stephanie Farr about his earliest Mummers memories, the most interesting inquiries he's received through his site and the epic band he scored for his wedding reception.
Q What has the response been like to your site?
I get emails all the time. Most recently, people want to know the best place to watch the parade.
They want to know about coming to see the parade. They want to know how they can be involved in the parade. Every day I'm getting something new.
I'm just connecting some people who have some interest in the Mummers to people who are in it.
Q What is your first memory of the Mummers?
Watching it on TV with my mother at home in 1985.
I eventually started recording it with the VCR, before DVRs and things like that. My mother was involved with Bridesburg Recreation Center, and one of the string bands was across from the center. She'd let the people in that string band know that I had a tape of the parade and I'd rent the tape to them for a couple bucks so they'd be able to see their performance.
Q PHL17 is running an all-Mummers all-the-time channel. What's your opinion of that?
I think it's great. The chatter I've been hearing about it is very positive. A bunch of people are very hyped about it. I am too.
A lot of the Mummers, when it hits the end of the summer, they call it "Mum Season." One of the things these guys like to do is watch video tapes of old performances so it gets them excited for the coming season.
Q You got married on Broad Street and had the Hegeman String Band play at your wedding. Was there some strutting going on at the reception?
Yeah, absolutely. They were in full costume, and people loved it. They opened the doors at the Union League and here comes the band. Everybody was dancing during the cocktail hour.
It was part of my Philadelphia wedding. If I'm getting married in the city I love to the girl I love, I wanted to do it with the tradition I love.
Q How do you explain the Mummers to outsiders?
It's kind of this outrageous tradition. It's colorful, it's fun, it's uniquely Philadelphia. It's something you have to experience.
Watching it on TV is one thing, but to see it in person, to see the costumes and the fans' reaction, it's just a great part of Philadelphia.
Q Have you received any interesting requests or emails from your website?
There's different Mummers tradition other than the Philadelphia tradition. There are these Mummers in Newfoundland, Canada. It's a Mummers tradition there that's in the same vein but in a different style. They parade around and show up at people's houses and you're supposed to let them in. They wear dresses and bras and underwear outside of their clothes. To me it looks weird, but I'm sure to them, our tradition looks weird.
There's a historian up there and he asked me if I'd give him a quote for his book. Most of it was about the Canadian tradition, but a piece was about the Philadelphia tradition.
Q Even though you're not a mummer, have you ever strutted your stuff?
Oh yeah. I've been out on the street with them as they played. I've danced and I've strutted with them. I don't have a costume or anything.
It brings a lot of smiles to people's faces when you're doing it. To be that committed year round has to be more than "Hey I want to dress up in weird suits and freeze my tail off walking through the city." It's because they bring joy to a lot of people.