The Spartans, the newest club - consisting of former Satin Slippers members, among other brigades - marched on strong with a Native-American theme titled, "One Nation, Valley of the Drums."
Linda said that when the opening act took the concrete stage, "Emily said she could feel the Spartans in her tummy."
No surprises there. The 11 South Philly-based brigades' two indoor shows - one at noon aimed at families, one at 5 o'clock aimed at 10 anonymous judges; tickets $20-$25 per person - might not have the grit or the chill of the Broad Street productions. But they still hit you square in the belly.
(And, in one case, the nostrils, too.)
"Every year, there's more pressure to do more, pressure to outdo," said Gerald Roccia, captain of the South Philly Vikings, who won last year with their show, "R U Game?"
Outdo they did.
Speakers thudded with louder-than-ever operatic action-flick-style music. Dancers in brighter-than-last-year costumes thumped out movements.
Sets - Polynesian beaches (Avenuers); golden treasure-flanked pirate planks (Jokers); giant, beady-eyed gods, skulls and idols, a steaming locomotive (Vikings); a humongous queen of hearts (Downtowners); a candy factory (Saturnalian); plus lasers (2nd Street Shooters), confetti blasts (the Downtowners' display was especially profuse); and digital screens galore - went over the top . . . over and over again.
Each bit lasted 4 1/2 minutes. Most, of course, took about a year to pull together.
"If our clubs had uncapped budgets, if we had $500,000 each, we'd be the same as Hollywood, the same as a Disney production," said Roccia, who, when he's not directing 60-some dancers while wearing 5-foot-wide shoulder feathers, works in heating and air conditioning. He added, "I think we could compete with Disney now."
No doubt his club could. The Vikings' futuristic steam-punk production featured an inflated red blimp, robotic dancers, kids locomoting decked-out Razor scooters and Big Wheels - and so much smoke you could smell it.
Beyond the effects, beyond the intricate (if somewhat look-alike) costumes, beyond the down-to-the-last-dangling-eyeball makeup, it was the traditional concepts that impressed the kiddos.
Center City's Luke DeBaecke went for Saturnalian's "Twisted Treats and Sinister Sweets" confectionary theme, and the Downtowners' Alice-less "Beyond Wonderland: A Mad Hatters World."
Emily Webster liked Clevemore's "Oz." (She said she hadn't seen the movie since she was a baby, when she "wasn't scared.")
Washington Township's Natalia Donofrio, 8, was rooting for her family in the Vikings, but looking forward to the 2nd Street Shooters' mummies.
South Philly's Luke Rachubinski, 5, and his brother Michael, 7, performed with their dad in the Spartans. They were two of the 30 kids paddling a dugout canoe in the brigade's last scene. "I liked doing the tomahawk chop," said Luke, wearing brown faux suede with matching sequins and orange face-paint.
Next year, he said, "I wanna be a pirate." (Sister Grace, 2, said she'd like to perform as a princess. "Rapunzel," to be precise.)
If it were up to the under-12 set, all the clubs would be winners. But a few hours hence, the brigades' fates would be in the hands of an unknown panel of judges posted behind a black curtain.
A few hours from now, would the newbie Spartans' energy pay off? Would Golden Crown's exotic Angkor Wat motif or the Shooting Stars' underwater Atlantis prove most impressive? Could the Vikings' steamy sets drop enough jaw for a repeat W?
See above for the answer.
Then, remember. These peeps are hard-working amateurs, carrying on a modern version of a hallowed Philly tradition. "The goal is to carry on the tradition," said Roccia. "The bonus - is winning."
On Twitter: @LaMcCutch