Farewell, Dad Vail— But now let's save the Mummers

How to save the Mummers Parade

4 minute read
Endangered species?
Endangered species?
So Philadelphia may have lost the Dad Vail Regatta to Rumson, N.J. Bad! Really bad for a kid from Strawberry Mansion who grew up with this national attraction— one that gave a shot in the arm to the press, not to mention the kind of broadcast attention that's so valuable to a would-be tourist destination in these trying times.

What's next for the doomsayers? The removal of Independence Hall or the Liberty Bell to Boston or Williamsburg?


But what about the Mummers' Parade, the New Year's special performed by working Philadelphians? Our Mardi Gras event that has done so much for string instruments as well as the feather industry?

It does not have to be.

From my past days of committee service as a theatrical and public affairs producer, I have made what I considered a positive change for the Mummers' line of march. Other civic boosters may have made a similar proposal to other committees.

(You of course, are familiar with Dr. Benjamin Franklin's description of a committee. Philadelphia's patron saint was referring, of course, to his chosen hometown.)

Cold days, hot beverages

Here is a simple thought that will in no way compromise the objectives of the Mummers or the eager observers who seem to have thinned out over the years, especially when midwinter chills and snows confronted our strutters:

Turn the parade around and provide some weather protection for the viewers, especially families with small visitors willing to pay a modest fee for a guaranteed seat. Such fee income would increase prize moneys for the marchers who spend most of the year preparing for this annual event. Help defray the cost of police, sanitation and other city services while boosting revenue from concession sales (a cold winter day can add up to a lot of hot coffee and cocoa). Then consider advertising from a glossy program and hawkers pushing audio and video sales.

Now, what do I mean by: "Turn the parade around"?

Wind up at the stadiums

Just this: Instead of marching up Broad Street from South Philadelphia to City Hall, marshal the parade elements on Dr. Franklin's parkway and in the square and plazas around City Hall. The parade would then proceed down Broad Street and into the Linc or Citizens Bank Park.

Viewing the parade would be free to spectators on the Parkway and Broad Street all the way south to the stadium. Seating in either stadium would shelter, to some degree, those tourists and citizens who want seating, not to mention overpriced coffee and hot chocolate close at hand.

Whether we go so far to invite Governor Rendell or his successors to allow New Year's dispensation for slots or table games, I wouldn't venture an opinion. Politics and morality are not my thing.

As for the judging…

The judging could take place at City Hall as the marchers give their first full performance under the watchful eye of Billy Penn and the crowded windows of Center City's growing condo and apartment buildings. Or the judges' stand could be set in the Linc or Citizens Bank Park after the parade makes a final turn in the chosen stadium. Thus paying guests would be assured of seeing the full performances of the comic, fancy and string bands. The public would continue to have the option of viewing the parade at no cost as it does its thing.

Going south rather than north. At last the Confederates win.

With a full house (if we're lucky, within three to five years of the change), and projecting no more than $5 to $10 in seat fees as well as concessions and memorabilia income, a stadium crowd of 50,000 might gross half a million dollars, not to mention hotel hospitality packages, restaurant service and taxi and public transportation. And of course the added lift to the strutters competing for larger cash awards.

Would the Mummers, city fathers and the public consider such an outrage to tradition? Well, remember Dad Vail.

Sign up for our newsletter

All of the week's new articles, all in one place. Sign up for the free weekly BSR newsletters, and don't miss a conversation.

Join the Conversation