"Every New Year's morning, I do the Mummers Parade, where I am a wench in the Froggy Car brigade. They put a bunch of roofers, construction workers and beer bellies in dresses and bloomers. The beginning of the Mummers Parade was the wenches. (The Mummers Parade is over 100 years old.) I got started when we used to hang out at a bar called O'Neal's, which is where we'll be having our between party this year (and last). One of the bartenders we befriended offered to sponsor my friend Victor, and I to be in the parade. We said sure, let's try it out. It was a blast!"
HOW LONG AGO DID YOU START THIS TRADITION OF BEING IN THE PARADE?
"I think this is my 13th year. I count the costumes, it's hard for me to remember. I was just looking at costumes, because this year is a reproduction of a couple of years ago, and I counted 8 of the dresses but have 13 different parasols (some of the dresses are in storage). When I do the math, I believe this is my 13th year."
WHAT IS THE DAY LIKE?
"From beginning to end, it's controlled mayhem. It's so much fun. We start out at the clubhouse, where it starts with 2, then 20, then 50, then 800 guys in dresses and parasols. The cool thing is, everybody tweaks their costume a little. Some guys will wear different wigs. Some guys paint their faces differently. Some have the legging socks. Some will have double tiered parasols. Everybody tweaks it just a little. The coolest part is that we go around south Philly to the houses of whoever's members passed away that year and serenade them with the band. We have a little horn section band. So we go into these little side streets in south Philly and knock on this lady's door, 800 of us, to serenade her for whoever passed away that year. That's why we usually get to Broad Street late and get disqualified every year. It's pretty cool though. Makes ya feel good. It's a little uncontrollable for a while, nobody with a megaphone or anything saying "come on guys, let's go this way!" You just follow the masses till you get to Snyder. When you get there, there's a little box truck with a couple of guys handing beers off the back. It's like a pied piper thing. It's three guys handing beers off one at a time to 800 guys and everybody's filling their satchel. That's how they lead us to Broad St. Once we get there, the truck turns off, cause there's no trucks allowed on Broad St. that day, and then we're there till we do our little march down. I like to stay on the side, play with the kids a bit since they're off to the side. We do our little march down Broad St. It's just long enough."
HOW LONG IS IT?
"We meet up with friends around 11-11:30, and then it's about 3 hours of stopping and going. But mostly going. Then we get to stop and watch the string bands. Most of them."
WHAT DO YOU DO AFTER THAT?
"We go to our party which I started about ten years ago when I lived at 9th & Oregon in south Philly. I wanted to have a holiday party, but everyone was so busy during the week. Then I thought "nobody has a New Year's Day party". (Usually I work on New Year's Eve, working a concert). Sure enough, people welcomed the opportunity to get out of the cold for a couple of hours. We drank and whatever. It grew from about 30 people the first time to, the last one I had at my apartment two years ago, 80 people. It was a little too small for 80 people in my apartment. So last year we rented upstairs at O'Neal's and it turned out perfect. About 150 people showed. That's what the owner said. We have a smaller window (that the party will go on for) this year just cause we wanna make the 2 street festivities. We kind of missed our group, Froggy Cars, the last couple of years, cause we stayed at the party too long. So we made it for 2-4:00 this year, so there's plenty of time to get to 2 street (AKA 2nd Street) by 5:00."
WHAT IS THE 2 STREET TRADITION?
"All of the winners in each category get to march down 2 street. It gets to be like Mardi Gras where it's just a mosh pit of people. It's a lot of fun. Everybody that lives there opens their door to strangers. I've been to many strangers houses on New Year's Day just cause of the costume. They don't let just anybody in. It's a huge party. Whoever won each group/category of the Mummers Parade gets to march by themselves down 2 street and serenade the whole group of people that are down there. Even though we usually don't win, we're the biggest and say "we're marching anyway!" And we do our little march with our band, the people are in the spirit for the rest of the night."
"Each group in every category has a clubhouse. Some are on 2 street, from Washington to Snyder. Walk down there any day and you'll notice that there's all different clubhouses. You go to the clubhouse, usually the Wednesday after Thanksgiving is when they start, you have to be sponsored by someone and give the name when you get down there. Pay your $225 for the year. When you're a member for the year they give you the dress, parasol, the badges, the hat, and there's different events through the year that you're invited to. A night out at the Phillies game, or they'll have beef and beers at their clubhouse. New Year's Day they put a big tent out and have breakfast sandwiches in the morning and coffee. Then when we get back they'll have some little pony beers left over from the truck and a pork sandwich or something. They do take care of you."
WHAT ELSE DO YOU LIKE ABOUT IT?
"It's a camaraderie. You make friends with strangers and you have no idea what they look like cause their face is covered in make up. A few months later you'll be at a bar and will be talking and they'll say "we were in Froggy car together". You're like "ok, if you say so".
BEING SOMEONE THAT ATTENDS THE PARADE, I'VE SEEN THAT YOU GUYS GET TREATED LIKE CELEBRITIES. DO YOU INTERACT WITH THE CROWD?
"Usually when we finish the route, we go into the crowd. It's good luck to kiss a mummer, so everybody's asking for that. We get lots of pictures with kids, which I'm always happy to stop and make funny faces with the kids that aren't scared to death of you."
DO YOU ENCOUNTER PEOPLE THAT AREN'T FROM HERE OR AREN'T FROM THE AREA THAT HAVE NO IDEA WHAT A MUMMER IS?
"All the time. You do a lot of explaining."
(Note the link above for a full explanation of the Mummers and Mummers Parade tradition)
WHAT WOULD SAY TO SOMEBODY THAT ISN'T FROM THE AREA BUT IS CONSIDERING CHECKING OUT THE PHILLY NEW YEAR'S DAY FESTIVITIES?
"Hotels still sell out. There are still people that come in just for the parade. It's the longest running parade in the United States. It's a parade for the people. Even the fancy's and string bands, with the beautiful costumes that are real expensive, they're all regular Joe's playing those instruments. There's no professional musicians or anything like that. This is all people that do this on the side. These are your cement workers, your plumbers, the blue collar of the city of Philadelphia that get together and celebrate another new year. You gotta love that part of it."