Broad Street's sequined strutters will be flapping their feathers toward Main Street come February.
Just days before their annual New Year's Day parade along a shortened route in central Philadelphia, the Mummers announced Wednesday that they would hold yet another parade a few weeks later - through Manayunk, in a Mardi Gras celebration they hope to turn into an annual affair that can double as a fund-raiser.
It will be the first time the Mummers will mount a parade beyond the New Year's spectacle that is to many Philadelphians what the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is to New Yorkers.
The Feb. 22 Mummers Mardi Gras in Manayunk Parade, as it is being called, will feature about 10 of the Mummers' 17 string bands. They will march from 10 a.m. to noon on Main Street, a strip best known for food and arts festivals, an annual bicycle race, and restaurants and watering holes near the banks of the Schuylkill.
"I am so excited to be announcing today that we will be hosting a Mummers parade on Main Street in Manayunk in February," said Jane Lipton, executive director of the Manayunk Development Corp., at a news conference at the newly opened Venice Island Performing Arts Center. "This is our Mardi Gras celebration."
Lipton said her group had pledged to underwrite parade costs while rallying support of businesses in a neighborhood that long ago bustled with factories and mills.
"The main reason that we are doing this," Lipton said, "is that we are committed as a district, as a community, and as a city to keeping this amazing tradition going in Philadelphia."
Proceeds will go to the Philadelphia String Band Association and the bands that participate in the parade, Lipton said.
For the inaugural event, set for the Sunday after Mardi Gras (Feb. 17), there will be no comics, wenches, or fancies on the ground. Organizers said that could change in future years, depending on how things go.
The fund-raising component is crucial to the string bands' participating. Since the economy contracted in late 2008, Mummers of all sequins and stripes have found it harder to pay for their elaborate costumes.
"Every costume you're going to see on Broad Street and here on Feb. 22, we raise the money. We do it," said Tom Loomis, president of the association.
"We're just regular guys and gals that work all day long - blue-collar, white-collar, retired, young - and we love keeping tradition alive," Loomis said.
Keeping that tradition going has been a challenge, too, for the city. Officials have reduced how much City Hall will pay to cover costs associated with the Jan. 1 parade, as well as other ethnic parades and street festivals.
"Many years ago, we almost lost this parade," said U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, who in 2010 helped establish the nonprofit Greater Philadelphia Traditions Fund, which disburses money to help the city cover nonpolice costs associated with more than a dozen annual street events. Brady said officials planned to hand the city a check Thursday for $100,000.
The Mardi Gras event will be a welcome addition to the continuing communal effort, the congressman said.
"I promise you, I'll be here doing my strut," said Brady, who had warmed up the crowd minutes earlier by slinging Mardi Gras beads around his neck and starting a group strut as five Mummers played saxophone-heavy classics.
The parade will begin at Green Lane and end at Lock Street, where the main entrance to the Venice center is located.
It will be free and geared toward families, though there will be $10 bracelets for sale that grant access to other events that day across Manayunk.
There will also be a raffle and silent auctions, said event producer Joseph M. DeCandido, a New York native who moved to Philadelphia in 2008 and hatched the idea of a Mummers Mardi Gras a year ago by hiring a few string bands for a smaller celebration in Northern Liberties.
Extending and expanding it to Manayunk, DeCandido said, "was a no-brainer."
"Without his efforts, we would never have put all this together," Lipton said of DeCandido, strategic marketing director of the production company Advent.
The annual Mummers Parade this year has a vastly different parade route, one that sheds the tradition of starting near the sports complex in South Philadelphia and marching toward City Hall, where groups compete before judges.
Instead, Mummers will start their march with performances in front of City Hall and then head south, ending about a mile later at Broad and Washington Avenue. The one-mile parade route is significantly shorter than the three-mile journey normally taken up Broad to City Hall.