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Recognizing the necessity letting future generations leave their mark on the parade, the Mummers…

Recognizing the necessity of letting future generations leave their mark on the parade, the Mummers turn a page into a new era

For many in the Mummers leadership, tweaking the parade every year is a way of keeping things fresh. It’s proof that nobody’s getting bored of the parade any time soon.

The Mummers’ Fancy Brigade Board. TOP ROW: Tim Luko, Mike Townsend, Brittany DeMeo, Don Cola, Jr. BOTTOM ROW: Jack Hatty, Joe Gallagher, Jim Bradley and Tom Knight.

After this past January’s parade, Jim Bradley decided to call it quits.

He’d been the president of the Philadelphia Mummers Fancy Brigade Association for 15 years and as much as he enjoyed it, the timing felt right to pass the baton to the next person. At the same time, five other board members went with him. They recognized that if the tradition was going to continue, the younger generation needed a chance to leave its mark on the event.

“Everybody agreed that we all did it long enough that they all stood down when I stood down,” Bradley said. “It gave us a bunch of young blood. You need young blood to continue.” According to Bradley, many of the outgoing board members were in their late 50s and early 60s. The newcomers are in their late 30s and early 40s.

A new board president came into power, but the workload was more than he expected. It became too much to handle, and soon enough Bradley found himself coming out of Mummers retirement, just 27 days later, to resume his position as board president.

“I got the call to come back for one more year so that’s what I did,” said Bradley.

The other board members who retired from their posts stayed retired, but the board needed help. With so many newcomers, people simply didn’t know how to run things.

“Some of the guys held positions on the board for so long,” said Brittany DeMeo, who is the first female board member in fancy brigade history, that “when three or four new people come in they don’t know what the board does.”

As a result, Bradley has served in more of a mentorship role this year compared to previous years. He’s committed to this being his final show as board president, and he wants to make sure the new board is well-versed in putting on a memorable performance upon his departure.

“I don’t think the younger generation knows how much work is put into this,” DeMeo said. “I don’t think everyone understands the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the New Year’s Day performance.”

There’s a plethora of work that goes on behind-the-scenes, which most Mummers fans simply don’t know about. That includes work on both the production and financial sides of the equation.

“I think that people would be surprised to see the phone calls and the meetings that goes into it,” said DeMeo, who noted that the board still defers to Bradley for most of what needs to be done.

“I think it’s extremely important because the younger folks, who are even younger than me, are the future of the brigade and the fancy division,” said 42-year-old Tim Luko, who’s serving his third year on the board, making him a relative newcomer as well. “It’s more of an opportunity to get the younger generations involved.”

Everybody involved is proud of the direction the fancy brigade is headed, especially with the arrival of DeMeo.

Outgoing board member Fred Keller said that DeMeo “broke the glass ceiling.”

“I think a long time ago, the brigade association had male dominated membership,” he said. “Within the last ten years, we probably are about 50/50 between male and female performers, and I think it was important for the board to reflect that”

Luko echoed that sentiment.

“We need the younger ones, but we also need to diversify,” he said. “Most importantly, we need to start reflecting the demographics of the fancy brigades themselves.”

Do they outgoing board members have any advice for the new ones?

Keller values the importance of eliminating bias. It’s important to make decisions based on what’s best for the entire division, not what’s best for the club you happen to belong to.

“Listen and make sound decisions about what’s best for the overall,” he said. “When you’re on the board, you have to do what’s best for all the clubs. So put your personal ideas aside and decide what’s best for everybody.”

Rocco Gallelli, who served on the board for 10 years until his retirement earlier this year, told SPR that it was important for the new board to adapt to the changing times.

“I think if they approach things with an open mind and accept the changes in the tradition to make it sustainable, that’s going to be a recipe for success,” he said. “It’s all about sustainability of the tradition and the love of the tradition and the mummery to keep it going. The younger ones have to be able to step up and keep the tradition alive.”

Some of those changes have already become evident. For instance, judges this year have backgrounds in theater and dance, unlike judges in previous years, whose background more reflected the drum and bugle corps industry. The judges were chosen by the board as well. Previous judges were chosen by the city.

“That’s a big change for us this year,” Bradley said.

For many in the Mummers leadership, tweaking the parade every year is a way of keeping things fresh. It’s proof that nobody’s getting bored of the parade any time soon.

“It’s a passion,” Bradley said. “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t like it. There’s some days when I’m really frustrated, but the more you do it, the more you start perfecting it a little bit and you get some satisfaction.”

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