The Mummers Parade is quite possibly Philadelphia’s most visible tradition. Grown men (and a few women) are going to dress in sometimes fantastical garb and strut through the city in their respective groups. Some will have spent thousands of dollars on their costumes. Some will take the judging process of the parade very seriously. Many will be drunk.
The colorful, sequin-y and feathered costumes worn by Mummers vary greatly depending on what type we’re talking about. There are six different types. You can find more details here, in our explainer on the Mummers.
This time around, we’ll walk you through the different types and point out the parts of their costumes and overall appearance that make them unique. Here’s a look from top to bottom at the anatomy of a Philadelphia Mummer (in order of how they’ll appear in today’s parade):
This new sub-section of Mummers was created to foster more diversity in the yearly parade which has been widely criticized for not only lacking diversity in the past, but for outright denying it. It’s traditionally featured white men of European descent, and controversy comes down almost every year as at least one or two Mummers do something, well, racist. This year’s Philadelphia Division will feature Hispanic performance groups and an African American drill team.
Here’s how the Philadelphia Division will appear today:
1. Miss Fancy Brigades
2. San Mateo Carnavaleros
3. 2nd to None Drill Team
4. Los Bomberos de la Calle
We won’t break down their costumes this time around, as the 2016 parade will be their first performances. But look out for these new groups, as they’ll be up first in the parade early in the morning.
Just one Fancy Division (different from Fancy Brigades which officially split off in 1978) group remains: Golden Sunrise. The group will strut in the parade following the Philadelphia Division Performances. As the name might suggest, this group is known for its elaborate and often expensive outfits that are much larger than other performance groups.
Here’s what one of Golden Sunrise’s fancy outfits looked like in 2014:
Yes, there is a person in there. Golden Sunrise hasn’t released information about what its theme will be this year. You’ll have to post up on Broad Street to find out.
Wench Brigade Division
OK, so if you see a bunch of dudes walking (stumbling?) around and they’re all in matching costumes made of satin, you’re probably looking at a Wench Brigade. Each group will have more than 100 members and some will have a live band strutting along with them.
This year, the wench brigades will appear in this order:
1. Americans Wench Brigade
2. Riverfront Wench Brigade
3. Cara Liom Wench Brigade
4. Bryson Wench Brigade
5. Oregon Wench Brigade
6. Pirates Wench Brigade
7. O’Malley Wench Brigade
8. JHJ Saints Wench Brigade
9. Froggy Carr Wench Brigade
Wench Brigade members often carry satin umbrellas like the ones featured here:
They also usually feature some sort of face paint that goes with the satin-y costumes:
Also: Matching shiny shoes.
Oh, and one of the most important parts of a Wench costume: A beverage.
This Wench apparently had one (or seven) too many:
These guys are basically the OG Mummers. They’re known for dressing up in funny, themed costumes and performing while poking fun at everything from pop culture to politics. They’ll appear in this order this year:
1. Landi Comic Club
2. Murray Comic Club
3. Goodtimers Comic Club
Each year, Comic Divisions come up with a theme like this one:
Their costumes usually include what looks like Halloween garb, and that includes things like hats and props if the theme calls for it:
String Band Division
The String Band Division is often a crowd favorite, as these Mummers have somehow mastered playing an instrument and strutting at the same time. The string bands will appear in this order (and the following themes!):
1. Original Trilby String Band- Lettuce Meat Olive Your Eggspectations
Around the World
2. Polish American String Band- The Toys Are Back!
3. Fralinger String Band- Undiscovered
4. Quaker City String Band- The Perfect Swarm
5. Avalon String Band- Egypt: Two Thousand Sphinx-Teen
6. Pennsport String Band- A Funny Thing Happened While Roman ‘Round the Ruins
7. Uptown String Band- Stop, Drop and Drum Roll
8. Aqua String Band- Jest Havin’ A Ball
9. South Philadelphia String Band- Dia De Los Muertos
10. Greater Kensington String Band- The Experiment
11. Greater Overbrook String Band- Greater Overbrook Is Havin’ a Hula-Va Mum Time
12. Woodland String Band- You Bet Jurassic’s Good
13. Hegeman String Band- The CODfather, The SEAquel
14. Durning String Band- All Dollared Up
15. Duffy String Band- Treble in the Fun House
16. Broomall String Band- Under ConSTRUTion
17. Ferko String Band- Field of Screams
The fancy brigades of course have instruments as an integral part of their costumes, but they also — like most Mummers — usually feature some sort of face paint, like this group here:
They also have decked-out captains who lead the group through the parade and sport different costumes from the rest:
The parade will end off with the Fancy Brigades, which are like the Fancy Division but much larger and, you guessed it, even more elaborate. This year their themes range from “A Scarecrow’s Dream” to “Coming to a Theater Near You; Skull Island,” and they’ll perform at the Convention Center.
Here’s the order in which they’ll appear:
1. 2nd Street Shooters Fancy Brigade- Mega Arcade Adventure
2. Clevemore Fancy Brigade- Japanese Adventure… Quest for the Dragon’s Eye
3. South Philly Vikings Fancy Brigade- Warcraft: Quest for the Crystal Sphere
4. Satin Slipper Fancy Brigade- Born to be Wild
5. Spartans Fancy Brigade- Monster High; Class of 2016
6. Saturnalian Fancy Brigade: Voodoo on the Bayou
7. Golden Crown Fancy Brigade- A Scarecrow’s Dream
8. Avenuers Fancy Brigade- A Knight’s Fish-Tale under the “C”amelot
9. Downtowners Fancy Brigade- The Land of all Seasons
10. Jokers Fancy Brigade- Coming to a Theater Near You; Skull Island
11. Shooting Stars Fancy Brigade- Happily Never After- A Twisted Tale
Fancy Brigades feature a captain whose costume can run upwards of tens of thousands of dollars to create. They’re the leaders of the group and often in the middle of the pack during a performance.
During their performances at the Convention Center, things can get pretty intense:
And one more thing…
Sure, the parade is supposed to be the focal point of the Mummers tradition. But the after party on Two Street (2nd Street the rest of the year) in South Philly can be a blast. If you’ve never been, it’s worth checking out. You can’t miss it if you’re on Two Street anywhere south of Washington Ave. by the time it gets dark today.