Does Philadelphia’s wildly improbable Mummers Parade even happen each year if we don’t have the pictures to prove it?
Interestingly, all of us taking pictures to prove that the unbelievable is happening for the 119th time (and that we’re all a living part of it) is just a recent addition to this highly interactive event.
I’ve gone since the first New Years Day after my move to Philly. That first year, I asked several locals (who, looking back, were probably suburbanites) about going to the Parade, and to a one they described a bestial rite that you’d only attend if you were interested in having someone vomit on your shoes. Watch it on TV “if you have to,” they said, “and turn it off “when you’ve had enough.” Happily, I didn’t take their advice, never got enough, and never once went home with dirty shoes.
In fact, I always ended up feeling more like I was wearing the same golden slippers (Ok, gilded sneakers) that the strutters with their dainty parasols had been wearing as they made their way down Broad Street—Oh dem golden slippers. The Mummers always portrayed a huge cross-section of the City that rarely gets its day at its friendliest and most colorful. It is our Mardi Gras.
After I’d been here for several years, I took a job at the local gas utility to try and leverage its strategic locations and infrastructure for a global energy market. There were maybe 300 of us “in management,” but the other 1500 workers were the rank and file representatives of the City’s sprawling neighborhoods like Nicetown, Tioga, Point Breeze, Frankfort, Port Richmond, and Bella Vista. As I learned, a large number of them transformed themselves into Mummers at their local clubs for every New Years Parade. Sometimes when I went to one of the plants to rally them to one cause or another, I imagined these men and women in their end-of-the-year finery as they huddled around me and knew them all the better for it.
The following pictures prove that I was there with them again this year along with Wally, some old friends and thousands of new ones. I think that the grey skies and the mild weather on Tuesday set off our local dazzle particularly well. Every New Year needs to begin with revelry, optimism and local connection that looks something like this.
I hope you enjoyed a quick view of this year’s Mummers Parade. The last time this page contained a photo essay was after I visited New Orleans and saw a similarly local connection–this time to those who had died–in the City’s potters field. Here’s a link to it if you missed those heart-felt memorials the first time around.
This post was adapted from my January 6, 2019 newsletter.