2016 Mummers Parade: The Ultimate Guide

Can I drink in the street? What the hell is a Wench Brigade? Where do I pee? And so much more.

The Quaker City String Band (Photo courtesy City of Philadelphia)

The Quaker City String Band (Photo courtesy City of Philadelphia)

If you’ve lived in Philadelphia all of your life, you no doubt know at least a bit about our annual New Year’s Day tradition known as the Mummers Parade. But if you’re a new resident (over 100,000 millennials alone since 2007), the longtime ritual might be a bit puzzling, both conceptually and logistically. So whether you’re an old timer who wants to know what time the Wench Brigades begin or a newcomer wondering what the heck a Wench Brigade even is, our exhaustive Mummers Parade Guide has something for you.

Mummers Parade FAQ

All your questions, answered.

» When is the 2016 Mummers Parade?

The 2016 Philadelphia Mummers Parade will take place on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2016. The Mummers Parade always occurs on the first day of the year unless postponed by parade officials. This year’s rain date is Saturday, January 2nd. But is it likely to rain? “Nope,” 6ABC meteorologist extraordinaire Cecily Tynan tells Philly Mag. “Looks dry and quiet for New Year’s Day. Partly sunny & brisk, morning low around 36 and afternoon high around 45. Happy New Year!”

The 2000 Mummers Parade was postponed several days due to forecasts of heavy snow and high winds, and the 2003 Mummers Parade took place on January 2nd. Bad weather can mean serious damage to the expensive costumes. Plus, no one shows up in bad weather, and doing a parade without tens of thousands of spectators is kind of like finally mastering Jacques Pépin‘s boeuf Bourguignon and then having all of your dinner guests cancel. Back to top

» What time does the 2016 Mummers Parade begin?

The official start time of the 2016 Mummers Parade is 9 a.m. Rain delays have occurred in the past, but that doesn’t seem like it will be a problem this time around. In 2008, the Mummers Parade was pushed back three hours to avoid rain showers that moved through the region. For more specific timings, see below. Back to top

» What time does the 2016 Mummers Parade end?

The last Mummers group is scheduled to enter the parade route at 3:40 p.m. Things should wrap up around 5:00 p.m. down at Broad and Washington. Back to top

» What route does the Mummers Parade take?

Mummers groups queue up on JFK Boulevard from 15th Street to 22nd Street and then enter the parade route at 15th Street and JFK Boulevard on the western side of City Hall, where they perform their routine for the judges. Then the Mummers march and strut their way around City Hall and south on Broad Street.

The next performance comes at the intersection of Broad and Sansom streets, probably not coincidentally the location of the exclusive Union League club. (This is where the rich and powerful like to watch the parade so as not to have to mix with the commoners.)

Then it’s a straight shot down Broad Street to Carpenter Street, where they perform one more time. The parade route officially ends at the intersection of Broad Street and Washington Avenue. Back to top

» But wait: I thought this was a South Philly thing?

You sure are right about that. For many years, the parade started at Oregon Avenue in deep, deep South Philadelphia and went all the way up to City Hall.

Then in 1995, an extremely unpopular decision was made to move the parade to Market Street, thanks to construction on Broad Street. Then it was back to Broad Street, then back to Market Street again (ugh!), and then back to Broad Street in the mid 2000s.

Then in 2014, yet another brouhaha broke out when the decision was made to start the 2015 parade at City Hall and proceed south on Broad Street but only to Washington Avenue, which is barely South Philadelphia going by today’s real estate standards. People freaked out, but the 2015 parade went off without a hitch. Back to top

» How many different types of Mummers groups are there?

There are six different Mummers divisions: Comics, Fancys, String Bands, Fancy Brigades, Wench Brigades and the newly formed Philadelphia Division. Back to top

» What are the differences between the Mummers groups?

Levels of alcohol consumption. But seriously …

Comics are basically a bunch of (mostly) guys in silly costumes goofing off and doing “routines” to prerecorded music — some of those routines poke fun at people or institutions, no matter how politically incorrect or flat-out offensive. Comics are also the ones that tend to push the boundaries most, often coming up with performances that Rush Limbaugh might approve of.

Case in point: Murray Comic Club’s controversial 2009 routine “Aliens of an Illegal Kind.” Noted xenophobe Joey Vento of Geno’s Steaks (may he rest in peace, hopefully accompanied by a bunch of “foreigners”) opened the performance standing behind his notorious “When Ordering, Speak English” sign. There was a border, there were border guards, and there were people dressed in stereotypical immigrant outfits:

Wench Brigades are similar in feel to the Comics, but they must have at least 100 participants (hence “brigades”) and perform to live music. Witness the Oregon Wench Brigade wenching in the street in front of a giant inflatable gorilla (alas, the infamous giant inflatable union rat wouldn’t have been a good thematic fit) as the band plays “Jungle Boogie” by Kool & the Gang. Pretty sure the band was hitting the hooch as well, based on what you’ll hear in this video.

Fancy Division performers have, as the name suggests, fancier and more elaborate costumes and sets. They parade down Broad Street with floats. Here is Golden Sunrise — the last remaining Fancy Division team — doing “Hobo Express” in 2013:

Fancy Brigades are bigger and fancier than the standard Fancy Division. The Fancy Brigades are the biggest of all of the divisions, and they used to be judged as part of the standard parade. But these days, they shield their expensive costumes and sets from the elements by performing at ticketed events at the Convention Center. Note that after the first show, they go to Broad Street and march interspersed with the String Bands, but they are judged at the second Convention Center event that day.

Their shows there are truly impressive. If you don’t believe us, just watch the Shooting Stars performance from last year. If you’ve ever heard that it takes the better part of a year to put one of these together, this is why:

String Bands are the perennial favorites of your average Philadelphian. The costumed performers dance while playing a variety of unamplified instruments (banjos, clarinets, saxophones, accordions, glockenspiels, violins, drums, etc), and, as with almost all Mummers performances, there is a theme. Some of this year’s string band themes: Lettuce Meat Olive Your Eggspectations Around the World; A Funny Thing Happened While Roman ‘Round the Ruins; You Bet Jurassic’s Good; The CODfather-The SEAquel. Yeah.

In 2015, Ferko String Band played tribute to India:

Philadelphia Division is a brand new group that the city started to improve the diversity of the parade, which has traditionally been not all that inclusive (note the high degree of cultural appropriation in the above clips). There’s a group of drag performers (the Miss Fancy Brigade which has marched previously), a Mexican group (both shown below), a Puerto Rican drum and dance team and a drill team.

They won’t be judged this year, but there are plans to incorporate them into the judged part of the parade in the future. Back to top

» Which groups are performing for the 2016 Mummers Parade?

Comics: Goodtimers Comic Club, Murray Comic Club, Landi Comic Club

Wench: Bryson Wench Brigade, Cara Liom Wench Brigade, Froggy Carr Wench Brigade, O’Malley Wench Brigade, Oregon Wench Brigade, Pirates Wench Brigade, Riverfront Wench Brigade, Saints Wench Brigade

String Bands: Aqua String Band, Avalon String Band, Broomall String Band, Duffy String Band, Durning String Band, Ferko String Band, Fralinger String Band, Greater Kensington String Band, Greater Overbrook String Band, Hegeman String Band, Pennsport String Band, Polish American String Band, Quaker City String Band, South Philadelphia String Band, Uptown String Band, Woodland String Band

Fancy Division: Golden Sunrise

Fancy Brigades: 2nd Street Shooters Fancy Brigade, Avenuers Fancy Brigade, Clevemore Fancy Brigade, Downtowners Fancy Brigade, Golden Crown Fancy Brigade, Jokers Fancy Brigade, Satin Slipper Fancy Brigade, Saturnalian Fancy Brigade, Shooting Stars Fancy Brigade, South Philly Vikings Fancy Brigade, Spartans Fancy Brigade

Philadelphia Division: Carnavale de Puebla en Philadelphia, The Miss Fancy Brigade, Second 2 None Drill Team, and Los Bomberos.
Back to top

» What is the 2016 Mummers schedule?

9:00 am: Philadelphia Division (not judged)
9:30 am: Golden Sunrise (Fancy)
10:00 am: Americans (Wench)
10:06 am: Riverfront (Wench)
10:13 am: Cara Liom (Wench)
10:20 am: Bryson (Wench)
10:26 am: Oregon (Wench)
10:33 am: Pirates (Wench)
10:40 am: O’Malley (Wench)
10:46 am: Saints (Wench)
10:53 am: Froggy Carr (Wench)
11:00 am: Landi (Comic)
11:40 am: Murray (Comic)
12:20 pm: Goodtimers (Comic)
1:00 pm: Trilby (String Bands)
1:10 pm: Polish Americans (String Bands)
1:20 pm: Fralinger (String Bands)
1:30 pm: Quaker City (String Bands)
1:40 pm: Avalon (String Bands)
1:50 pm: Pennsport (String Bands)
2:00 pm: Uptown (String Bands)
2:10 pm: Aqua (String Bands)
2:20 pm: South Philadelphia (String Bands)
2:30 pm: Greater Kensington (String Bands)
2:40 pm: Greater Overbrook (String Bands)
2:50 pm: Woodland (String Bands)
3:00 pm: Hegeman (String Bands)
3:10 pm: Durning (String Bands)
3:20 pm: Duffy (String Bands)
3:30 pm: Broomall (String Bands)
3:40 pm: Ferko (String Bands)
Back to top

» How much prize money is there?

Zilch. The Mummers compete for bragging rights and for the fun of it. There’s been talk of raising prize money privately, but that hasn’t happened as of yet. 

» So where do I go to see the Mummers?

If you’re a member of the hoity-toity Union League on the southwest corner of Broad and Sansom streets, you’re in luck! The Union League puts together a big to-do complete with a “feast beyond compare” and what they’re referring to as “hobo bands,” and its members get to sit smack dab in front of the Mummers performance.

For the rest of us, don’t worry, there are plenty of options.

We’re told there are still tickets available for the Parade Grandstand (aka bleacher seating) at City Hall. These seats will set you back $19 each, and you should definitely bring a blanket. As far as we can figure, you can’t buy these online, so you’ll need to go to the Independence Visitor Center at 6th and Market streets or the Fairmount Park Visitor Center at Love Park. You might also try calling 1-800-537-7676, but we get voicemail every time we select the Mummers ticket option.

If paying $19 to sit on a bleacher to watch a public parade doesn’t sound very democratic to you, you are always free to huddle in with the masses along Broad Street, some of whom get there very early and set up lawn chairs.

There is also a “family viewing area” at the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts down at the end of the parade route. The special area will be on the school grounds at Broad and Christian streets and comes complete with bleachers, food trucks, a warming station and a large screen television. This was a new attraction brought in last year, and it worked out very nicely. There is no charge for admission. Back to top

» How do I see the big Fancy Brigades show?

The Fancy Brigades offer two performances at the Convention Center on New Year’s Day.

The Family Show officially begins at noon but offers a pre-show at 11:30 am that includes meets-and-greets, selfie opportunities with the performers, and lessons in how to do the Mummers Strut. Then at noon, you get to see all of the Fancy Brigades do their thing. Then there’s a judged Fancy Brigades show at 5 p.m., where the groups perform for the judges and the winners are chosen.

Note that these are two separate, seated shows and tickets are required. There were still some seats available as of press time for both shows. Tickets are $25 — plus annoying surcharges, of course. Back to top

» Who are the judges?

Great question! We asked, but we were told that this information is not disseminated. Back to top

» What are the rules?

Rules, schmules. The Mummers were unable to provide us with any official rules. According to one source close to the organization, the “rules” are passed down orally. There are no “official” rules. Back to top

» How do I get to the Mummers Parade?

Walk, bike, Uber, SEPTA, jetpack. These are all better ideas than driving, since there will be a ton of people and lots of street closures, not to mention enhanced DUI enforcement. (Most SEPTA services are running on a limited Sunday schedule, but the Broad Street Line is running trains every eight to 10 minutes from 8 a.m. till at least 6 p.m. to accommodate travelers headed to and from the Mummers Parade. Go here for all of that.) If you do decide to drive, consider the following:

• There is no meter or kiosk enforcement on New Year’s Day, but first you have to find an open meter or kiosk spot. You can park for free there, and you can also ignore parking time limits in those spaces.

• Trying to find a spot in Center City might be like trying to find a Donald Trump supporter at Amnesty International. Your best bets for street parking are along the southern edge of the parade route, a couple of blocks off of Broad Street. So, think 17th and Carpenter and not 17th and Chestnut. Whatever you do, go early.

• The cheapest parking garages tend to be those operated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority. A list of those lots appears here.

• Don’t drink and drive. Back to top

» What streets will be closed?

Starting on December 30th, the 1500 block of JFK Boulevard will be closed as needed for event setup. On New Year’s Eve, 15th Street from JFK to Chestnut will be closed from 6 p.m. until TBD. The 1500 block of Market Street will also be closed from 6 p.m. until TBD. On New Year’s Day, starting at 4 a.m. and continuing until the end of the event, 15th Street from JFK to South Penn Square and the 1500 block of Market Street will be closed. Broad Street will be closed from City Hall to Washington Avenue. No traffic will be permitted to cross Broad Street while the parade is in progress. Back to top

» Can’t I just watch all of this on TV?

Yes, WPHL-17 has held the rights to the Mummers Parade since the early ’90s, and their commentary is sometimes as amusing as the parade itself, especially when something off-color or politically incorrect happens. WPHL-17 also live-streams the parade. And if you can’t get enough once the whole thing ends, there’s even a 24/7 Mummers channel. This is how big a Mummers town this is. Back to top

» What should I wear to the Mummers Parade?

Given Cecily Tynan’s forecast, definitely wear layers. Since you lose a ton of heat from your head, a hat might be a good idea, but be sure to bring a backpack to hold water, snacks, and well-concealed “adult beverages” (see below), and to stow layers and hats once it warms up. Oh, and of course you should don those silly 2016 glasses. Our fashion editor Emily Goulet, who shamefully has never been to a Mummers Parade, suggests that if you want to be on the more stylish end of the Mummers Parade spectrum: “Hats with fur poofs are popular and cute. Plus, a very chunky scarf.” Back to top

» A lot of people drink in the street during the parade. Is this legal?

Drinking in the streets (by both performers and spectators) is an unofficial part of the Mummers Parade tradition in Philadelphia. But Philadelphia’s laws against public drinking/open container remain in effect, as Philadelphia Police Department spokesperson Christine O’Brien assures us.

Our official answer is: Don’t drink in the streets. Our unofficial answer is this: If you take some swigs and act like a civilized human being, chances are that no one is going to bother you; but if you’re doing Jagerbombs in the middle of Broad Street and disturbing those around you by acting like an idiot, yeah, you could (and should) have a problem. Naturally, with our newly relaxed marijuana laws in effect, we’d expect to hear more than a few kids say, “Mommy, there’s that smell again that we smelled while we were sleeping upstairs on Christmas Eve.”

And keep in mind that the city also has laws against public drunkenness, public urination, lewd behavior, and disorderly conduct. Bottom line: If you’re a grownup enjoying a grownup beverage (or a grownup smoking substance), act like a grownup. This is a family parade — not the 700 Level. Back to top

» Speaking of beer, where do I drink and eat?

There are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby that will be open. We expect that the new Wawa at Broad and Walnut streets will be slammed with people seeking Shortis and half-gallon lemonade jugs into which they will add their chosen, er, mixer.

Less than two blocks off of Broad and Sansom, Fergie’s Pub will have Irish breakfast all day (talk about a New Year’s Eve hangover helper) as well as their “Classy Special,” a $5 can of Narragansett along with a shot of Jameson. Close to Fergie’s, McGillin’s Olde Ale House is running specials on Irish Coffee, Hot Cocoa, and other warming beverages that you can enjoy by their fireplace. On the other side of Broad Street, you’ve got Jose Pistola’s, with its copious amount of craft beer as well as New Year’s Day special posole pork soup, which owner Casey Parker describes as a “hangover essential.” Down a bit further, Bob & Barbara’s at 15th and South has the most affordable drink in town: the $3 Pabst-and-Jim Beam combo. If you’re looking for takeout beer, Latimer Deli at 255 South 15th Street is always a solid choice. Back to top

» Is there anywhere to pee?

Of course: There are over 2,000 miles of street in the city!


No shortage of options here. Early in the day, the many Porta-potties should be reasonably acceptable. (The city tells us there will be 250 of them along the route). Later in the day, maybe not so much.

The Ritz-Carlton at Broad and Chestnut usually has public restrooms, and we hope they’re not going all bathroom-Nazi on us for the occasion. 13th and Market is a pretty reliable corner. There’s Macy’s, the Loews Hotel, and plenty of other spots where you shouldn’t get too much of a hairy eyeball for trying to relieve your bladder.

There’s also the Marriott at 12th and Market, the Shops at Liberty Place at 16th and Chestnut, the Bellevue at Broad and Walnut, and the Kimmel Center (which, by the way, is hosting a free all day celebration, so they’ve gotta let you pee). When in doubt, bring a kid — or borrow your friend’s — and tell them it’s a “bathroom emergency.” The CAPA site at Broad and Carpenter will also have bathrooms available. Back to top

» Who pays for all this Mummering?

Clubs raise money on their own, but the city — meaning you, oh taxpayer — also chips in. The city’s contribution used to be in the $1 million realm, but last time we checked, that number had nosedived to $300,000. That’s one reason why the 2016 Mummers Parade isn’t called the 2016 Mummers Parade. It’s called the 2016 SugarHouse Casino Mummers Parade. Back to top

» Can we expect more security for the Mummers this year?

Sadly, as with all major public events, the answer is yes. Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky laid all of this out in a recent story, the main points being:

• steel barricades along Broad Street between City Hall and Washington Avenue
• police dogs will be used to sniff out ne’er do wells
• Mummers participants must provide official credentials to police during the parade, or they will be tossed from the event
• all Mummers vehicles must be registered with security Back to top

» Is there an after party?

There sure is. If you’ve never been to the Mummers after party known as Two Street, you owe yourself a trip. Basically, once the Mummers get to Washington Avenue, they head to deep South Philly where it all began, and they have a huge in-the-streets, in-the-homes, and in-the-bars party.

It can get crazy. Keep in mind that some of these Mummers started drinking on New Year’s Eve and haven’t stopped since. That said, the community is working to make it still fun but a little less crazy, as Felicia D’Ambrosio details in this new Philadelphia Inquirer article.

Crazy or not (and we hope they don’t decrazify it too much), it’s a guaranteed good (and drunk) time. Hope you don’t have any plans for Sunday, January 3rd. Something tells us that South Philly churches will have an all-time low attendance.

There are also other after parties, thrown by different neighborhoods and bars. One good one we heard about is out in Clifton Heights, Delaware County. It’s outside the Original Clam Tavern and the Broadway Bar, and the Overbrook String Band is heading there straight from the parade. Go here for details. You’ll find others if you look hard enough. (Feel free to post your parties in the comments below.) Back to top

» Wait. Isn’t this the parade where they wear black face?

The Mummers Parade has been going for more than a century, and black face used to be prevalent. It was banned by the Mummers in 1964, but some bad apples still pop up once in a while. The Mummers also have a tendency to delve into other insensitive or patently offensive behavior and stereotypes — granted, these examples are fewer and farther between, but they do happen — and they probably always will. With the ISIS/ISIL conflict dominating headlines all over the world, we’re just going to have to wait and see what roads the performers choose to go down this year. Fortunately, the Mummers are taking steps to diversify and improve the situation. Hence, the new Philadelphia Division. Back to top

» This all sounds AMAZING. How do I join the Mummers?

Figure out which group you’d most like to be a part of — maybe the Comics are more your speed than the String Bands — and reach out to the group under that division that you want to join via the links on this page. If you want to start your own group entirely, our understanding is that you have to be sanctioned or sponsored by an existing organization, as the Rabble Rousers  and the Vaudevillains before them did. Some groups have dropped out in recent years, so there is most definitely room for more. Back to top

» This all sounds LAME. Why do you people do this?

First of all, if you haven’t tried it, don’t judge. We do it because it’s a hell of a lot of fun but also because it’s a Philadelphia tradition that long predates cheesesteaks, Rocky and all of the other stupid things that we’re known for. The first official parade was in 1901 but the traditions involved go way, way, way back and we won’t even attempt to tell you all about it. This article on the Mummers Museum’s (you should really go there!) website gives you a pretty good start. Want more? There’s even a dissertation. Back to top

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.