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Editorial: Paying for the Parade

Mummers bailout

There's financial chaos on Wall Street and a billion-dollar budget crisis in Philly, but Mayor Nutter is still willing to pay $300,000 of this year's $347,000 total cost for the New Year's Day Mummers parade.

The money would cover police for crowd control, sanitation, emergency medical personnel, and related services.

That's the equivalent of trading in "dem golden slippers" for silver ones. Not bad, given the economic circumstances.

And while the city's offer was under consideration at a meeting Wednesday night, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Pa.) stopped by and promised to raise $50,000 for the Mummers' share of the expenses or contribute the funds himself, according to Mummers attorney George Badey.

True, the Mummers will forego $350,000 that the city usually puts up as prize money for the Comic, Fancy, String Band and Fancy Brigade Divisions.

That's tough, because a mere feather in the cap for a club's win - as if they don't have enough of those - won't cover the costs of costumes and other necessities as prize money would.

But winners' purses have never been enough to supplement a club's expenses, which can include paying $30,000 to $80,000 to costume a 64-piece band.

In addition, the Broad Street strutters will have to figure out how to take on the entire cost of the 2010 parade. Fund-raising will be a daunting task for all in 2009, but this will be a good opportunity for supporters and friends to show the depth of their allegiance to the Mummers.

The debate over paying for the parade has also presented an opportunity to look at other aspects that are ripe for reform.

For one, the eight-hour running time. After last year's half-day marathon - including a three-hour rain delay - the city is limiting the parade to 61/2 hours this time. But is even that much time necessary?

To be fair, the city should be celebrating the fact that it has hundreds of citizens willing to participate in a community event - and thousands more ready to watch - for eight hours or more.

And the city should be grateful for the untold amount of volunteer time that goes into preparing for this uniquely Philadelphia event.

However, an overlong parade just provides more time for an irresponsible few to give a black eye to the city and to the majority of Mummers, whose talent and dedication to their tradition is evident in their dazzling costumes, their elaborate sets, and their disciplined performances.

No doubt there will be complaints about the city breaking its long-standing tradition of support for the Mummers parade. Keep in mind, though, that Fancy Dress and Comic Brigades were strutting and strumming up Broad for almost 30 years before the city sponsored its first Mummers parade on Jan. 1, 1901.

In fact, the revelry, joyous noise-making and community celebrating of Mummery dates to colonial times - and William Penn certainly wasn't shelling out shillings for that.