Come New Year’s Day, one South Philly family will be divided among three different Fancy Brigade clubs.
By Bill Gelman
The Josaphouitch/Smith family is very divided. Some could even call them a dysfunctional Mummers family. How else do you explain the fact that they are divided among three Fancy Brigade clubs — the Jokers, Saturnalians and Shooting Stars?
David Josaphouitch, the first-year captain of the Jokers, marches with his grandfather David “Yama” Josaphouitch. Josaphouitch’s brother, Mason Smith, and father, Brian Smith, perform with the Shooting Stars. Mickey Adams, the former captain of the Shooting Stars, is David’s godfather. Younger sister Evan Rose Smith is a member of the Saturnalians (the other two clubs do not have female members).
Mom, Maureen Smith, meanwhile, roots for them all. Come New Year’s Day, she will once again be sporting her Mummers sweatshirt that is fittingly decorated with the logos of all three organizations. Playing the mom/wife/fan role is no easy task. She will once again be on makeup duty, going from club to club to club until all three are ready. Then it’s back home to get ready for evening finale at the Convention Center. The night before is spent helping to prepare food for the Jokers and Shooting Stars.
“It’s a little crazy,” she said.
Like two pro sports teams going head-to-head in a championship game, the other family members have a little fun with trying to gain an advantage on each other’s club, with “try” being the key word.
“I kind of ask my brother and sister questions to see if I can get the inside scoop,” Josaphouitch said. “We are all pretty tight lipped about it.”
Evan Rose, 15, also does her best to get the inside scoop from her siblings to help give the Saturnalians the edge.
“My brothers try and keep it a secret, and I get mad because I want to know,” she said. “I do it back to them so they can feel what I am feeling.”
This will be the eighth parade for the String Theory student, who is a member of the National Honor Society. Her older cousin, Delaney Kelly, also performs in the club.
Like most other families, when one member has exciting news to share, everyone shares in the happiness. Yes, even when it’s Mummers-related news.
“I am extremely excited. It’s something he has been involved with since he was born,” said Brian Smith, who has been with the Stars since 1982. “To have that happen to him this year is pretty exciting.”
Yama is looking forward to stepping on the Pennsylvania Convention Center floor with his grandson.
“I am ecstatic. It’s great,” Yama, who has been a member of the Jokers for more than three decades, said. “He has been around a long time. It’s going to be real, real nice.”
Josaphouitch, 27, is stepping in for Joey Gallagher, who handed over the captain’s torch after a 19-year run as a result of the birth of his fourth child.
“Joey is like blood to me,” Josaphouitch said. “He used to pick me up to go to drills when I was younger. I always wanted to mimic what he was doing.”
Being the captain of a Mummers Brigade comes with a lot of responsibilities. Groups start preparing for New Year’s Day on Jan. 2–24 hours after the results from the Mummers Parade are announced. The Fancy Brigades perform for the judges inside of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Each of the 12 clubs spends the year creating and tweaking a four-and-a-half-minute routine with a Mardi Gras/Broadway feel. Come Jan. 1, it’s go time. The Jokers, along with all of the other Fancy Brigades, also perform for the spectators on Broad Street.
“We get our spacing on Broad Street,” Josaphouitch said. “Anything you fix drill wise, you fix on Broad Street. You leave it all on the floor.”
Each of the Fancy Brigade clubs will perform three times on New Year’s Day. They will start outside, then move inside to the Convention Center for the family show followed by the evening performance before the judges. The Shooting Stars lead this year’s March, while the Jokers and Saturnalian will go back-to-back toward the middle of the show. All of them will be trying to knock off the South Philly Vikings, who have walked away with the top prize two out of the last three years. The Shooting Stars’ last win came in 2014 while the Jokers won the top prize in ’11.
Maureen Smith might have the toughest task of the day, trying to stay neutral between the three clubs she supports.
“It’s pretty tough on my mom,” Josaphouitch said. “We are all at the Convention Center at different times for drills.”
Mom and her friends will be putting in extra hours with the Jokers to help with the makeup.
Now that New Year’s Day is less than a week away, it’s the perfect time to start some friendly trash talking among family members. Since many of those hours will be spent at the Convention Center rehearsing, the friendly banter is not on the to-do list. After all, the Mummers are one big family.
“It’s pretty simple down here on 2 Street,” Smith said. “Those not involved with the Mummers are few and far between.”
Sleep for many of the Mummers is optional on New Year’s Eve, as many will stay up to watch the ball drop followed by the early report time for the parade. Josaphoutich said he will likely be pulling an all-nighter.
After all, on parade day, there can only be one winning brigade and one captain.
“We are getting ready to enjoy a fun day,” Brian Smith said. “The guys in the Stars have known David since he was a baby. They want nothing but the best for him.”
His grandfather will be right by his side providing support every step of the way.
“I just tell him to keep a cool head and do the best you can,” Yama said.
The Mummers Parade is another family affair in which the results are secondary..
“At the end of the day we are a family and it doesn’t matter who wins because we are all just doing it for fun,” Evan Rose said.
Maureen, the most nervous one in the bunch, doesn’t play favorites.
“I want them all to do well,” she said. “I am a nervous mess from the time it starts to the time it’s over.”