He has a lot of work to do, but he’s been preparing for the job for all 29 years of his life — and then some.
Robert Fitzmaurice Jr. isn’t nervous. At least not yet.
“I think it’s starting to set in more now because it’s getting closer,” he told the South Philly Review on Dec. 14, “but I think it’ll be more nerve racking New Year’s Day than anything.”
Since he spoke to SPR on Dec. 14, Fitzmaurice Jr. has 17 more days to prepare for the Mummers Parade as the new captain of The Avenuers New Year’s Brigade. He has a lot of work to do, but he’s been preparing for the job for all 29 years of his life — and then some.
“I was in my mom’s stomach when I was in my first parade,” he said.
What he does not have — according to his father, who served as captain of the Avenuers for the previous 30 years — is big shoes to fill.
“He’s got a lot of people saying he’s got big shoes to fill,” Bob Fitzmaurice, Sr. said, “but I tell him, ‘You’re your own person. Fill your own shoes. Make your own style. Don’t try to be like anybody else.’”
In February, Fitzmaurice Sr. nominated his son to take over for him. He accepted the nomination, and when nobody in the club decided to run against him, Fitzmaurice Jr. became the club’s newest captain. It was a day that Avenuers co-captain Dario Sanchez felt coming for a while.
“I’m gonna say that [feeling] probably started in the past four or five years,” said Sanchez. “The logical progression would be Robert. He was groomed to be captain, put it that way.”
The best the club ever finished during the elder Fitzpatrick’s tenure was third in 2004 for the club’s Arabian Knights theme. Over the course of his three decades as captain, he’s finished second in the “best captain” award four times.
“He led by example,” Sanchez said of Fitzmaurice Sr. “He did, he made, he built. He did everything that had to be done. People change as we get older — we all do — but he’s always been a fun type of guy to be around.”
The elder Fitzmaurice hasn’t retired completely, however. He’ll still be in costume and marching down Broad Street on New Year’s Day with the rest of the group; he’ll just be doing it as a co-captain rather than the club’s main captain.
But he’s had a good run.
“He’s always wanted me to take over after he was done,” said Fitzmaurice Jr. “I didn’t know if I wanted to do it at first, but once he said he was going to step down after 30 years, I thought it was time.”
At 29-years-old, Fitzmaurice Jr. is plenty old enough to understand the weight of the Mummers tradition and the gravity of him taking over the captainship role of one of the more storied clubs in the division.
“It’s a big privilege to be captain of the club,” he said. “It wasn’t handed to me. It gets voted on. It’s nice that everybody had trust and faith in me to lead them down the street.”
This year, the club plans to go with a Chinese theme. According to Sanchez, it was one of the themes in the running last year. But Fitzmaurice Jr. put some of his own twists on it, and presented his vision for it before the club’s theme selection committee. The club members liked it, and ultimately decided to go with it.
It’ll be the first time Fitzmaurice Jr. marches down Broad Street as the captain of his own club. The Avenuers may not have had a whole lot of luck winning first prize in the results in recent decades, but this year Fitzmaurice thinks his club’s got a chance.
“Everybody’s got a shot,” he said. “It all depends on how you go out there and make the show happen.”