New Year’s Day, January 1, 2014
The Parade begins at 10 a.m. and marches north up Broad Street to JFK Boulevard.
New Year’s Day is about celebrating, and there’s no better place to fête than the 2014 Philadelphia’s Mummers Parade and Fancy Brigade Finale presented by SugarHouse Casino.
An annual tradition, the Mummers Parade features 10,000 men and women dressed in colorfully lavish costumes as they twirl, sashay, pirouette and strut up one of the city’s main streets. An unforgettably wild ritual, the parade and subsequent performances are all family-friendly and fun for everyone.
While a carnival-like atmosphere welcomes anyone who decides to stop by at the last minute, a little advance preparation guarantees a clear view. Better still, spending the night in the city ensures an early start to the day.
Limited bleacher seating is available near the judging stand. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Independence Visitor Center.
Mummers are men and women of all ages who belong to more than 40 organized clubs that make up the parade participants. The clubs, split into five divisions—Comics, Wench Brigades, Fancies, String Bands and Fancy Brigades—function mainly to stage their playful performances on New Year’s Day. But Mummers do perform at other events throughout the year, and for many Philadelphia-area families, Mummery is a tradition that spans generations.
The day’s highlight is the parade itself, which begins in South Philadelphia in the morning and winds its way up Broad Street to City Hall approximately eight hours later. Each division knows its role: the Comics and Wench Brigades satirize issues, institutions and people; the Fancies impress with their glamorous outfits that rival those of royalty; the String Bands gleefully play banjoes, saxophones, percussion and other reed and string instruments; and the Fancy Brigades produce tightly choreographed theatrical extravaganzas.
But the noisy camaraderie shouldn’t fool the novice spectator, as each club is embroiled in a friendly yet fierce competition for local bragging rights.
After they’ve displayed their floats, costumes, dances and music, the Comics, Fancies and String Bands that are based in South Philadelphia head down to 2nd Street (or Two Street as it’s affectionately known) to spend the rest of the day and night in hearty revelry with the crowds that follow them there. But there’s more work ahead for members of the Fancy Brigades, who put on two elaborate Broadway-style performances for ticket holders at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the afternoon.
Spectators are encouraged to leave their cars behind and take public transportation into the city. Those who drive should park in a garage.
One of the best places to view the spectacle is from the judging stands near City Hall, but tickets must be reserved in advance. (See below.) For sidewalk seating, arrive early and set up near a performance location, where marching String Bands perform. These spots are at the intersections of Broad Street and the following streets: Sansom Street (Union League), Pine Street, Washington Avenue and Shunk Street.
The various divisions enter the Parade at different locations. The Comics and Wench Brigades enter at Washington Avenue, the Fancies start at Broad and Snyder Streets and the String Bands at Broad Street and Oregon Avenue. Fancy Brigades start at Oregon Avenue in the mid-afternoon but only get as far as Washington Avenue, where they get on buses and head for the Pennsylvania Convention Center. (Tip: Because each division starts at a different intersection, the Broad Street and Washington Avenue intersection is the only place to see all the Mummer groups.)
The parade begins in the morning and ends sometime before 6:00 p.m. Fancy Brigades hold two ticketed competitions at the Pennsylvania Convention Center first at 12:00 noon and the second at 5:00 p.m. (See below for ticket information.) The revelry then moves to Two Street for a party that goes well into the early morning hours.
Mummery traces its roots to ancient Roman laborers who ushered in the festival of Saturnalia by marching in masks while exchanging gifts and satirizing the issues of the day.
In the 1600s, Swedish settlers to Philadelphia’s outskirts honored Christmas by beseeching their neighbors for dessert and liquor by dressing up, chanting and shooting firearms. The party eventually migrated to New Year’s Day and evolved into a series of neighborhood parades; then, as immigrants moved to the area from Ireland and Italy, each group added their own cultural flair to the local customs.
In 1901, the tradition began in earnest with the first recognized and judged Mummers Parade. The term “Mummer” is German and means “to costume or masquerade.”