Mummers upgrade 2013 parade with new performers, technology

Posted: December 28, 2012

Forget watching college football bowl games on TV and nursing hangovers. If you're a Philadelphian, one New Year's Day activity trumps all others.

We speak, of course, of the Mummers Parade, the now-112-year-old orgy of banjos, glockenspiels, feathers and sequins that as much as anything we hold dear, symbolizes our sweetly eccentric corner of the universe.

But for something that virtually defines the word "tradition," the Mummers Parade is a surprisingly evolving entity, which is likely why the relic of the horse-and-buggy era has survived into the time of Instagram and "Gangnam Style." And Tuesday's cakewalk up South Broad Street will have new sights, both human and technological.

Perhaps the biggest news this year is the addition of drag queens. Sure, cross-dressing has been an integral part of the annual celebration, even before the city made it an official municipal event in 1901. But Tuesday will see the first-time inclusion of men whose predilection for wearing women's clothes extends beyond once-a-year Mummery.

Each of the 10 fancy brigades will be led by a professional drag queen during Tuesday evening's portion of the parade at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. "We're like their court jester or, like, hype person that hypes up their entrance," Ian Morrison, who put together the so-called "Drag Brigade," told the Daily News' Sara Khan last month.

Morrison, who performs under the name Brittany Lynn, and his fellow dragsters will also march up Broad in front of the 17 string bands. That portion of the parade steps off from Broad and Ritner streets at 10:30 a.m., a half-hour after the comics get things started from their staging area at Washington Avenue.

New technology will be on display at the judging area west of City Hall, where two giant video screens will provide the spectators assembled there high-definition views of the performances. There is expanded bleacher seating in the judging area, which, for the second consecutive year, will be located on JFK Boulevard between 15th and 16th streets because of the ongoing reconstruction of Dilworth Plaza at City Hall.

Those who choose other vantage points will also notice attempts to make the parade more user-friendly. Seating has been added at various points, and spectators will see more in the way of food vendors and public bathrooms all along the parade route.

Despite some folks' belief to the contrary, the Fralinger String Band will be strutting at full-strength, unfazed even after a recent fire struck its Two Street workshop.

"They came away relatively clean," said Jim Marino, assistant parade director for the city's Department of Parks and Recreation. "I think they lost one prop."

For those too impaired to make it into town, PHL17 will again broadcast the parade in its entirety. The coverage begins at 6 a.m. with "SugarHouse Casino Mummers Moments" from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. as part of the station's daily "Eye Opener" program.

At 8, a two-hour special, "Breakfast with the Mummers," will lead up to the 10 a.m. start of the parade, which this year is again sponsored by SugarHouse Casino. As he has for the past two decades, Steve Highsmith will anchor the Main Event coverage. He'll be joined by a corps of 6 ABC personalities, including meteorologists Adam Joseph and David Murphy and newsies Brian Taff, Alicia Vitarelli and Sara Bloomquist.

In years past, the local broadcast has been syndicated in other markets across the country. This year, according to Highsmith, those plans have been scrapped in favor of live streaming of Channel 17's coverage on the Internet (phl17.com).

Figures provided by the station report last year's parade was viewed in Cyberspace by 51,487 people in all 50 states as well as in 85 other nations, including Canada, Japan and Vietnam.


" @chuckdarrow

Blog: philly.com/Casinotes

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