Happy New Year, Philadelphia! Congratulations on surviving the scourge of 2016. Hopefully you celebrated its triumphant end with the requisite amount of alcohol and support from your friends. But you can't truly put the old year to rest until you've started the new one with the Mummers Parade.
Mummers have a long and sordid history in Philadelphia, as do, it seems, all long-lasting traditions in this great city. The parade traces its roots to the late 17th century, when Mummers plays - working-class street performances - took place around the holidays. All-guy groups would dress up, drunkenly sing, and parade around to their neighbors. Eventually the festivities focused on New Year's Day - and it's believed that even George Washington kept the tradition alive while living in Philadelphia's President's House.
The first official Mummers Parade occurred on Jan. 1, 1901, and Mummers have been strutting ever since. Local clubs from all around Philadelphia dress up in wild attire and plan crazy performances to compete in one of five categories - Fancy, Comic, Wench Brigade, String Band, and Fancy Brigade.
This year's parade starts at City Hall at 9 a.m., with more than 10,000 glittering and colorful Mummers strutting and dancing down Broad Street to Washington Avenue. The Golden Sunrise Fancy Club will start things off, followed by Wenches, Comics, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades.
Tom Loomis, president of the Philadelphia Mummers String Band Association, said the string bands have come up with "some great theme selections this year and continue to push the envelope as far as music and show are concerned." He said fans will "have the freedom to explore the 'behind the scenes' prep and rehearsals taking place in the staging area on JFK Boulevard from 15th to 19th, and on Market Street from 16th to 19th."
The Fancy Brigade finale takes place at 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Convention Center, 11th and Arch Streets. Tickets are $20 to $25.
Bring in 2017 with a bang, instead of a whimper, and use the Mummers to forget that 2016 ever happened.