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Tradition Merging With New Aspects for 2015 Mummers' Parade

By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Although the Mummers' parade route is shortened and the direction of their strut is reversed for the 2015 edition, one division will be able to stretch its legs on parade day, January 1st.

The irreverent Wench Brigades, an offshoot of the Comics Division, have well over 3,000 costumed members in bonnets and bloomers.

Leo Dignam, the city's deputy commissioner of parks and recreation, says it would have been a logistically difficult and costly proposition to have them start at the same location as the other divisions, at 15th and Market Street, near Dilworth Park.

"One of the nine Wench groups has almost a thousand members," he notes, which would have made it prohibitive to load them all into buses to get them to the starting point of the parade.

"They couldn't afford to do that," Dignam tells KYW Newsradio.  "Plus, I don't think center city could take the traffic, with all of those buses pulling up."

So, the Wenches will start on foot at Broad Street and Washington Avenue, and head north, going around City Hall.  From there, they will join the rest of the parade (the Fancies, Comics, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades) that will strut from City Hall, south on Broad, down to Washington Avenue.

The clubs are also working hard to enlist the next generation of mummers.

"My band is predominantly younger members, and 23 of them are our sons," points out Tom Loomis, who has been president of the Woodland String Band for 25 years.  "My son started marching in costume at 12 years old.  This year he's 26."

They key, he says, is for fathers to get their sons involved in the tradition:

"Put a saxophone or banjo in their hands, recruit or bring in fathers who have sons, and make it something of a family organization."

This New Year's Day, some marchers will continue heading east after the Broad Street parade, to Second Street, where many clubs are based, for an unofficial "Two Street Parade."


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