The third in a monthly series focusing on the behind-the-scenes preparations of the Philadelphia Mummers Fancy Brigade Association.
Mummers tend to make a lasting impression. The downside is fans have to wait an entire year for the next New Year’s Day Parade to come around.
Former North Wildwood mayor Aldo Palumbo attended the 1994 parade and enjoyed it so much that he approached the Philadelphia Mummers Fancy Brigade Association about coming to the Jersey Shore for an annual weekend affair. Now the groups are packing their bags and costumes for the 19th annual gathering taking place June 7 and 8, but unlike Jan. 1, this isn’t about earning first-place praises from the judges.
“This is actually a time to go down to North Wildwood as a division and have some fun together. The fact that it has been going on for 19 years now says how much the brigades are into this special weekend,” Jim Julia, president of the Philadelphia Mummers Fancy Brigade Association, said. “So while we are competitors on New Year’s Day, we can still enjoy each other’s company during the year. And the North Wildwood Weekend is the top social event of the year for the Brigades.”
Of the 10 groups that marched earlier this year, nine will be making the two-day excursion. The South Philly Vikings, 1815 S. 11th St.; Downtowners, 148-50 Snyder Ave.; Saturnalians, 1811-13 S. Second St.; Avenuers, 1226 S. Second St.; Jokers, 1602 S. Second St.; Satin Slipper, 1444 S. Second St.; Golden Crown, 2022 S. Third St.; Clevemore, 2119 S. 10th St.; and 2nd Street Shooters, 1438 S. Front St., make up the list of participants.
The festivities begin 7 p.m. June 7 with the seventh annual Friday Night Pub Crawl that currently includes stops at Casey’s on Third, Coconut Cove, Anglesea Pub, Number 1 Tavern, Keenan’s, Echo’s and Westy’s. More than 200 Mummers will be going from bar to bar, Julia said. Some “friendly competition” amongst the clubs is expected.
Saturday starts off with the annual block party — complete with music, dance and strut contests — along Olde New Jersey Avenue from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. The 19th annual Fancy Brigade summer parade follows, starting at Second Street and Olde New Jersey Avenue.
“Since the prize pressure of New Year’s Day is not there you will see a different type of parade,” Julia said. “As a spectator, don’t be surprised if you become part of the presentation. If you come once, you will come back.”
For North Wildwood’s Joe Quattrone, the annual second-weekend-of-June gathering is one of his favorites. The 72-year-old knows a little something about the Mummers from his days growing up at 11th Street and Oregon Avenue, and being a member of the Fralinger String Band, 1901-03 S. Third St., for 50-plus years. He currently serves as North Wildwood’s entertainment coordinator.
“One of my favorite pet projects is the two times a year the Mummers come in,” Quattrone, who also is organizing the Sept. 7 Mummers String Band Show, said. “This is the summer home of the Mummers. So many people from the Mummers are down here.”
He said between 20,000 and 25,000 people are expected for the five-block parade in which each of the participating groups will be performing multiple times in full costume. It’s expected to last about two hours. The late-afternoon start allows families to get in some valuable beach and ocean time prior to the festivities.
Like the spectators, the Mummers and their families enjoy taking in all of the Wildwood offerings including the boardwalk, sunset on the bay, the great restaurants and bars and some impromptu Wiffle ball games. For those making the trip down, there may be some noise in the hotel parking lots as the brigades will be holding Saturday morning rehearsals.
For the first 12 years of this event, the groups actually competed for prize money, but Julia said it got to a point where groups were turning down the opportunity to go to Wildwood as they were front-loading the prize money, so they removed that aspect.
“It has gotten better since we did away with the competition since all Brigades now participate,” Julia said.
Quattrone said he has received calls from people in Altoona and Cincinnati, Ohio who are making the trip east.
“It’s an event that the whole family enjoys,” he said. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
For more information, visit NorthWildwood.com.
Contact Editor Bill Gelman at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 121.