For Mummers Parade, something new: Speed

Posted: December 31, 2003

More than a century after its birth, Philadelphia's annual Mummers Parade is adapting to a new era.

And unlike the old days, when fans watched the parade for hours in frigid New Year's weather, Mummers leaders and city officials said tomorrow's parade is expected to be sunny and speedy - tailor-made for the age of global warming and short attention spans.

Of course, they would have a hard time taking credit for weather forecasts that predict bright skies and temperatures in the upper 40s.

But according to Philadelphia Managing Director Philip Goldsmith, his office has worked with the Mummers to make this parade significantly shorter than the dragging, gap-filled events that he said had turned off fans in recent years.

"The issue here is how to be relevant," Goldsmith said. "Gaps create a loss of interest."

Not that participants will exactly sprint up South Broad Street. The first marchers from the Comic Division will step off from the intersection of Broad Street and Washington Avenue at 9 a.m. The final string band will pass City Hall around 5:15.

But a staggered start and a greater emphasis on speed will mean less dawdling, Mummers officials said.

The parade will reach Center City about 9:30, with the Comics arriving first, followed by the Fancy Division, whose route begins at Broad and Snyder, and then the string bands, whose route begins at Broad and Oregon.

The parade also marks the Mummers' return to Broad Street. They had marched on Market Street for the last four years.

One group that will not be on Broad Street: the Fancy Brigades, which will perform two shows at the Convention Center, at noon and 4 p.m.

Bill Burke, Fancy Brigades Association vice president, said that the brigades had wanted to march on Broad Street, but that the logistics of their shows made it impossible.

"The times just weren't working out for us," Burke said.

John Pignotti, String Band Association president, said fans at the outdoor parade would also have more access to food vendors and toilets than in last years. A parade program will also be available for purchase.

"It's going to be very fan-friendly," Pignotti said.

Fans of the Comic Division, where clubs traditionally spoof major news events of the year, should expect riffs on the subterranean capture of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the legal troubles of Martha Stewart, and the major local story of the year - the federal bugging of City Hall.

According to Rich Porco, Comics Association president, the bug will be addressed by several groups, including the Slick Ducks Comic Brigade, which attracted controversy last New Year's after announcing plans to lampoon the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal.

Calls to Slick Ducks leader George Hirsch Jr. were not returned.

Contact staff writer Michael Currie Schaffer at 215-854-4565 or mcschaffer@phillynews.com.

For Tickets

Tickets for the Fancy Brigades shows cost $12 and are available by calling Ticket Philadelphia at 215-893-1999 or visiting the Kimmel Center box office. Tickets for the parade grandstands at 15th and Market Streets cost $12 and must be picked up at the Independence Visitor Center, which is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today but will be closed on New Year's Day. For information, call 215-965-7676.

A map of the 2004 Mummers Parade route appears on page B4.

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