Sunday, January 1, 2012

Broad Street Euphoria: the 2012 Mummers String Bands

I shot 339 photos today at the 2012 Philadelphia Mummers Parade, with my long lens over strangers' shoulders, between bobbing heads, around poking elbows, and while perched atop a barricade. I endured the heinous stench of cigars and the stomach-turning aroma of beer. I was almost caught in the middle of a dispute over a twelve-inch-square piece of sidewalk and just missed a train home (meaning a 55-minute wait for the next one).

I stayed for about half of the String Bands which meant I got to see the second-place winners, Quaker City ("A Toys Night Out"), and the first-place captain from Fralinger, Thomas D'Amore. Woodland took the top band prize, but they performed last today with the theme "It's a Jungle Out There." I was long gone by then. The rest of the results are here if you are interested:,0,7882020.story

It was all worth it when I got home and loaded up the photos, though. As I expected, they were vibrant and dazzling. The euphoric faces of the musicians, dancers, and captains reminded me of that top-secret bucket list entry of mine. I would LOVE to march up Broad Street on New Year's Day with a really good string band. I have some credentials: I play the tenor saxophone, I participated in seven years of marching band (four of them competitive), I can handle choreographed dance moves, and I would ROCK a sequined costume with crazy hat.

Credentials aside, I understand the huge commitment required for these groups and I know I don't have the time. They practice their music and dancing all year, and those costumes! Those costumes take a lot of work in design and construction, and have to be durable to withstand any weather. This year's weather was the best ever--the strut up Broad Street would have been like a walk in the park (but with lots of preparation!).

When I lived in Center City, I would watch the parade on TV until the string bands stepped-off in South Philadelphia. That was my cue to bundle-up and head out to the corner of Broad and Locust and make my way slowly through the crowd up to the crowd barricade to get a clear shot with my 35mm camera. I would be in position by the time the String Bands arrived at that performance spot. (I enjoy the Comics and the Fancies, but the String Bands are my favorites.) I took some nice shots and after an hour or two I'd head home with my frozen toes and fingers. Then, like now, it was worth it for the entertainment, the joy, and the photos! Check out some more of this year's best and behold those joyful faces:

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