Posts Tagged ‘parades’

Philadelphia… city of Brotherly Love, pretzels, Michael Vick (unfortunately, in my opinion) and….. MUMMERS:

Real pirates wear feathers

Getting ready to strut


Fancy animals

By this point you’re probably asking yourself, “What they hey is this all about?!”  Trust me, I asked myself the same thing when we first moved here.  And also trust me when I say I still do not completely understand it.  Every New Year’s Day the city’s main north/south street, Broad Street, is shut down and brigades of fancifully dressed men and woman parade from “Two Street” to City Hall.  Paraders stop every few blocks to put on a little show– setting up mobile sets, dancing and playing their instruments for the crowds lining the route.  They are judged at City Hall and prizes are handed out at the end of the day for “Best Of” in every category imaginable.  There is also a lot of alcohol involved in this event… a lot of alcohol.  Other teams have “floats”:

Bee floats

Clubs of mummers work year-round to prepare for the event.  They spend thousands of hours (and dollars) making their elaborate costumes, creating sets and, of course, perfecting the “strut”.  The history of the parade is pretty long-winded, confusing and I have not been able to find two stories that are exactly the same.  It seems to have come from Druids wanting to frighten evil new-year spirits, parades for guilds of butchers/bakers/candlestick makers, Italian carnivals, ancient Roman celebrations of the god Saturn, drunken Swedes shooting guns to celebrate the new year and probably a little bit of New Orleans Mardi gras thrown in there for good measure.  It’s boisterous, flamboyant and very serious for most of the people involved.  Whatever you do, don’t diss a mummer.

Mobile sets

I spent several hours walking up and down Broad street, taking in all the amazing costumes and enjoying some hilarious people-watching.  Too bad I had to work the next day, I hear these guys party hard on Two Street afterwards.

Happy New Year!


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First of all, totally unrelated to this post, I would like to say how excited I was early this morning to find that the blog had already received 53 views today!  Hello to the world, and thanks for stopping by.

Ms. Ferrandi's studio at Fleisher

Patrick and I occasionally take art classes at the Fleisher Art Memorial, an extension of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  It’s a groovy little community-oriented place with great free or cheap classes.  Fleisher recently hosted Brooklyn-based artist George Ferrandi (a woman, by the way), whose residency at the Memorial culminated in a “night parade” on April 24, 2010.  We rode over after dinner at Silk City.

Happy lantern people

The exhibit/performance piece/narrative follows the fictional story of an elderly woman named Huberta.  As she becomes more forgetful and her husband of many years more frail, they are separated in the interest of their care—she to live with their daughter in Florida and he to live with their son in Maine.  Huberta’s husband whispers to her as they and their belongings are packed up not to be afraid but to remember that “wherever there is water, I will be with you.”

A duckie choir

Several months later Huberta, not entirely sure where she is going or why, shuffles off in the night.  She winds her way northward, following various bodies of water along the way.  She passes through Richmond, Baltimore and eventually makes it to Philadelphia.  This parade is a welcoming to her—it tells her story though sculptures, song and dance.  Find the full story here.

I think this is a really amazing piece of community-based artwork.  Ms. Ferrandi got Fleisher students involved, encouraged neighbors to participate, and seemed to welcome anyone with a creative and open-minded spirit to march in the parade. 

Huberta statue (10' tall!)

Sometimes I need to see things like this to help me remember that childlike whimsy shouldn’t be discarded.  I saw babies and adults equally transfixed by the “floating” paper lanterns.  Creativity and imagination can bring us together—the website says 250 people marched in this parade!  Viva la arte!  (Is that real Spanish?…)


I didn’t have my camera with me so these pictures are stills from a really crappy video I took.

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