It took 87 years, but Woodland String Band finally wins

Posted: January 03, 2012

WHEN IT COMES to wowing the Mummers judges, parade placement is key. Performing last is an unenviable spot; by then, the judges and spectators might be tired and distracted.

But last was lucky for the Woodland String Band at Sunday's Mummers Parade. The band snagged first place for the first time in its 87-year history.

"Best for last," Fran Kerr, Woodland's music director and arranger, gushed yesterday at their clubhouse on 3rd Street near Snyder.

"Lasting impression," agreed Matt Kerr, his brother and Woodland's drill master, makeup still staining his face.

The Fralinger and Quaker City string bands have hogged first place for 14 years, so the Woodland win was a "Cinderella story" that had Mummers setting aside rivalries to celebrate, said George Badey, Mummers Association spokesman and Fralinger member.

Woodland's performance, called "It's a Jungle Out There," featured marchers and musicians dressed as tribal warriors, a giant lion, confetti-spouting elephants, big bananas and a score that included snippets from "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Tusk."

Rich Bruch was the Woodland marshal who first received the results. He broke down and cried when told of their win.

"I've been there every year since 1995, and there's not usually a lot of emotion. [The mood] is mostly pissed off that Quaker City or Fralinger won again," said Leo Dignam, the city's parade director. "But everybody was happy about this."

Woodland's 112 members had boarded a bus to return to South Philly when Bruch called club president Tom Loomis with the results.

Loomis stopped the bus and ordered everyone off. They circled around, wondering what was worth standing in the cold rain.

"You did it! You're the champions!" he announced.

Pandemonium erupted.

"There was just such a roar. They danced in the streets for a half-hour," Dignam said.

Winning was something David Anderson always knew they could do. Anderson has been a Woodland member for 58 years, since he was 3 years old. He, his father and his grandfather - both also named David - are Woodland Hall of Famers. Woodland's clubhouse is named "Anderson Hall" in honor of the family.

"It's like a dream come true," Anderson said yesterday.

At the clubhouse yesterday, members admired their trophy as Loomis eyeballed a wall of photos of past performances.

"We'll hang it there," he pointed, adding: "This year's [photo] will be a lot bigger!"

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