Want to kick off the new year with a mega, Mardi-Gras-like party? Now in its 120th year, Philadelphia’s Mummers Parade draws thousands of people together for an all-day celebration featuring lavishly costumed performers marching their way down Broad Street. Here’s where and how to join the festivities, how you can survive the traffic chaos, and, if you’re new to Philly, a little bit about what the hell is going on.
The parade begins at 9 a.m. at City Hall. A main judging stand is near the start at 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard. While the parade is free to attend, spectators can purchase bleacher seating in this area. Tickets are $20 and can be acquired at the Independence Visitor Center or by calling 800-537-7676.
The parade travels south along Broad Street to Washington Avenue, where it ends by 6 p.m. Afterward, many of the performers head to South Second Street, known as Two Street, for a boisterous party that continues into the night.
The Fancy Brigades are first in the parade lineup. Upon finishing the route, they relocate to the Pennsylvania Convention Center for the Fancy Brigade Finale. Shows are held at 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., inviting families to watch choreographed routines indoors. Tickets cost between $22 and $35, and can be purchased in advance online or by calling 800-298-4200.
While participants perform all along the way, designated performance areas are scattered throughout the route for brigades to present choreographed routines.
The basics. The Mummers Parade is made up of around 40 clubs split into five categories — Comics, Wench Brigades, Fancies, String Bands, and the Fancy Brigades. Each category has its own signature performance specialty, and all compete against each other for bragging rights. The Wench and Comics groups are known for scheming up satirical themes. The Fancies don costumes both magnificent in size and beauty. The String Bands are filled with saxophone, banjo, accordion, violin, bass fiddle, drum, and glockenspiel players. And the Fancy Brigades create elaborate and theatrical performances (such as a costume of the Magic Gardens, arguably the most Philly thing ever), performed both during the parade and afterward at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. In the end, judges declare winners.
The history. The Mummers Parade grew out of traditions that came over with waves of European immigrants into Philadelphia. The name comes from the centuries-old English mummers plays; the word traces back to the god Momus of Greek mythology, who represents mockery and satire. The modern parade has been an official event since 1901, after reporter and theater promoter H. Bart McHugh pitched the idea to the mayor as a way of controlling “historically chaotic celebrations.” McHugh worked with councilman John H. Baizley, who drew upon his past as a leader of a neighborhood gang, which would dress up for Halloween-esque trick-or-treating. The parade was originally called the Shooters Parade, because firing guns in the air "was a macho ritual with these South Philadelphia urban cowboys,” The Inquirer wrote in 2000.
The controversy. The parade has had its problems over the years, including its use of blackface, and depiction of Indians, Native Americans, Mexicans, LGBT people, and other groups. In 2016, this led to some sensitivity training, but that hasn’t ended controversy: Last year, a skit involving someone depicting Jay-Z walking someone depicting Mayor Jim Kenney on a leash reignited the debate about the Mummers and minstrelsy.
On Jan. 1, it’s better to avoid driving anywhere near the parade route. Parking restrictions begin on Dec. 27 along portions of the parade route. Most parking and traffic restrictions will be lifted once the parade concludes.
Temporary no parking zones will be in effect from 2 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Jan. 1 for both sides of street unless otherwise noted: