Mummers Delight Crowds in New Year's Day Parade

Saturday, Jan 1, 2011  |  Updated 10:34 PM EDT
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Thousands gathered on Broad Street for the annual <a title=New Year's Day tradition." />

NBCPhiladelphia.com - Steve Highsmith

Thousands gathered on Broad Street for the annual New Year's Day tradition.

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A time-honored tradition continued for the 111th time as the Philadelphia Mummers strut through City of Brotherly Love on New Year’s Day.

Dressed in elaborate costumes with feathers and sequins, the brigades have been making their way up Broad Street, Philadelphia's main north-south thoroughfare, stopping to perform elaborate routines for the thousands lining the route.

String band members play banjos, saxophones, accordions and other instruments as they march, mixing popular tunes in with the traditional themes. Spectators sometimes joined in, tooting horns.

Although strutters often battle cold and wind, the weather for Saturday's 111th edition of the parade - appropriately held on Jan. 1, 2011, or 1/1/11 - was overcast but unusually mild.

Rich Howarth, examining a photo on his camera, had just arrived from Harrisburg with Bobbi Neufer, and they were heading for a seat on the nearby bleachers. Hhe loves the parade, a tradition in his family.

“I'm a Jersey boy, so my grandfather used to come here, brought us here, so there's a history in a sense,” he said. “This is what you do on New Year's Day.”

“It's the closest thing to New Orleans that Philadelphia has,” Neufer added. “And the weather is phenomenal, so right off the bat that makes it wonderful.”

Kerstin Palombaro made the trek in from Narberth for the sake of 5-year-old daughter Molly Lanza, even though she's not a fan of the event despite having lived a few blocks from the route for years.

“The string bands, I like the music - but yeah, I don't get it,” she said, holding Molly on her shoulders for a better view. “That's OK; it's a tradition.”

The parade ends at Philadelphia's City Hall, where judges waited to assess the performances and costumes of three of the four divisions. Brigades with the most elaborate costumes and routines were judged at an evening show indoors at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The event, said to be the nation's oldest folk festival, mixes immigrant traditions including Scandinavians who welcomed the new year with gunfire, masquerade plays of the English and Welsh and the Santa Claus character introduced by the Germans. Black residents arriving after the Civil War added the signature strut along with “Oh! Dem Golden Slippers,” the parade's theme song.

In 1901, the Mummers Parade became an official city-sponsored event.

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