Footloose and fancy-free

The Mummers will be starring on South Broad Street and the small screen this New Year’s Day, according to a parade official.

Contrary to reports last week that it was unlikely the Mummers could negotiate a television contract at this late date, Philadelphia Mummers Association President Bill Patterson said to expect a broadcasting deal to be announced this week.

The group, representing 27 clubs in three divisions, has four network suitors, Patterson said. He would not name the local stations.

For the last nine years, the parade has aired on Channel 17. Its contract with the Mummers expired last winter.

Patterson called claims made by some stations that it was too late to organize coverage of the event a "negotiation ploy."

The parade might be on TV, but it definitely will not feature the Fancy Brigades. Those clubs have opted not to strut the traditional Broad Street route even though their leadership voted in favor of leaving Market Street, which has been used since the 2000 Mummers Parade.

"[The Fancy Brigades] completely support the Broad Street route and they are disappointed that they are not able to parade in it," said the division’s spokesperson, Christine Cleaver Harrer. "But logistically, they are just not able to do it."

The conflict is the Fancy Brigades’ two shows at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, one at noon and another at 4 p.m.

Patterson said the other three divisions — the Comics, Fancies and String Bands — tried to be accommodating. They met with the Fancy Brigades’ leadership several times and offered to let them march earlier in the parade so as not to interfere with their convention center shows, he said, but nothing worked.

In October, the Mummers Association scheduled the parade without them. Still, negotiations were civil, Patterson said, and there are no bad feelings among the division leaders.

"We tried to work it out with them," he said. "We were very open. They made their choice and we’ll just live with it."

The Fancy Brigades also are not part of the newly revived Mummers Association, which is handling the marketing of the parade. (Check out According to Harrer, they were "never invited to join" the association.

The Fancy Brigades will march after their second show, but Harrer is not disclosing the location until they finalize the details with the city. An informal poll on the division’s Web site,, listed Passyunk Avenue, Second Street beginning at South Street, and "Two Street" near the clubhouses as possible routes.

That parade will not begin until after the Broad Street show is complete.

"It is in no way, shape or form going to compete with the Broad Street parade," Harrer said. "[The Fancy Brigades] are wholeheartedly supporting the traditional route. They are supporting the Mummery tradition, just with how long the route is, can’t parade on it."

The other three divisions have embraced South Broad. The Market Street route was too short, especially for the string bands, said Patterson, who is a member of Greater Kensington.

The string bands only drilled three times on Market Street. They will do their routine nine times on Broad Street.

The Comic Division will lead off the parade, starting at Washington Avenue, followed by the Fancies. The string bands will assemble at Marconi Plaza and march the entire original parade route.

Along the way, the Mummers Association has arranged for vendors to set up food tents at different spots on Broad Street. The organization is still negotiating to have corporate sponsors host hospitality tents and hopes certain blocks will be roped off and designated as "party blocks where spectators can buy beer."

"That is one thing we felt was missing. Young people like to come out and have a good time," Patterson said of the party blocks, but noted the city will not permit the unfettered outdoor sale of alcohol. Patterson predicted these pieces would fall into place after the association announces its TV deal.

One corporate sponsor is already on board. SEPTA will be selling a $5.50 transit pass that paradegoers can use throughout New Year’s Day. This will make it easier for out-of-town spectators to drive in and park in Center City and get to the parade route, Patterson predicted.

The Mummers announced they were headed back to Broad Street in June. They voted to move the parade to Market Street in 2000 — many believe under pressure from former Mayor Ed Rendell, although city officials have maintained it always has been up to the Mummers where they march.

The goal was to revive interest in the annual event, which had suffered through years of declining attendance that had left large portions along Broad Street without spectators.

The parade was on Market one other time in its century-long history — in 1995, due to construction on the Avenue of the Arts.

Center City was supposed to have been a better location with better marketing possibilities. One idea had been to promote the parade and the Fancy Brigades’ Convention Center shows in conjunction with special deals at the hotels to lure suburbanites to spend New Year’s Eve in the city and New Year’s Day watching the Mummers.

The city never officially estimated the size of the crowds along Market Street during the last four years, but many Mummers say they were no better than on Broad Street.

Patterson insisted this first parade back on Broad Street would not make or break the Mummers’ future in South Philly.

"We are looking at it as a totally new parade," he said.