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For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Mummers Parade has a new TV partner. The station switch is one in a series of changes that are part of an effort to “rebrand” the event, according to Mummers leadership.
“Everyone is stepping up their game,” Sam Regalbuto, president of the String Band Association and 38-year Mummer, told Billy Penn. “We know the things of the past that were offensive were not right then — and we need to make sure they never happen again.”
Held annually at the center of Philadelphia since 1901, the parade is to some a time-honored tradition that provides entertainment as the city enters a new year.
To many others, it’s an overstayed relic, representative of a time when racism and sexism were accepted, or simply brushed aside. It has roots in minstrelsy, and though blackface was banned more than half a century ago, a pair of marchers donned it as recently as 2020.
Current leaders say the parade can move past that.
“We do the city bias and awareness training to make sure we are evolving,” Regalbuto said, referring to the Kenney administration’s 2016 mandate that all 10,000-plus marchers participate in sensitivity training, “We are entertainers. We are not politicians.”
The city no longer puts up prize money (that stopped over a decade ago, per Regalbuto), but it does foot the bill for security and cleanup, like with other parades.
Amounts vary, but last year was an expensive one: Roughly $654,000 in taxpayer funds went to cover police, fire, and sanitation costs, according to city spokesperson Maita Soukup. That’s nearly double the amount in 2019, because the parade was postponed due to weather and so took place on a Sunday, when higher overtime rates increase costs, Soukup said.
This year’s parade is on a Sunday because that’s when Jan. 1 falls, so the cost for associated city services is likely to be similar, she confirmed.
Why the new broadcast partner? Negotiations broke down with PHL17, which had aired the event since 1993, over details about sponsorship revenue, according to Regalbuto.
Instead, this year’s parade will air on Delaware-based MeTV2, as well as be livestreamed by sister station WFMZ in Allentown.
The Mummers originally reached out just hoping the Lehigh Valley station might carry a provided signal, but WFMZ President Barry Fisher indicated interest in producing the event, per Regalbuto. Then it was just a matter of finding a way to cover the cost, which he said usually comes out to “a little over $100,000.”
Enter Live Casino & Hotel, which swooped in as title sponsor. IBEW Local 98 is also donating services needed to make the broadcast happen.
“When I told them it wasn’t about the Mummers making any money, about how we didn’t want to leave behind the fans who can’t make it out, they jumped at the chance,” Regalbuto said. “They’ve been great friends at MeTV and at Live Casino, coming in and saving the day.”
What to know about the 2023 Mummers Parade
- The parade route starts at the judging station at 15th and Market, then proceeds around City Hall and down South Broad Street to Washington Avenue. Find a map here.
- Several “performance areas” are set up along Broad, where various troupes will stop and perform their skits.
- About 40 different troupes participate, each comprising several clubs, all split into five divisions: Comics, Wench Brigades, Fancies, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades.
- The first troupe steps off at 9 a.m., when the broadcast begins.
- It’ll be aired live on WDPN-TV (MeTV2), and will stream live on WFMZ.com and the WFMZ+ app, available on Firestick, Roku, Apple TV, IOS, and Android devices.
- The broadcast, which runs through 5 p.m., will be narrated by husband-and-wife hosts Larry Mendte and Dawn Stensland.
- There are several road closures and parking restrictions, which will be lifted at the end of the parade.