Tuesday, October 04, 2005

TheGoodReverend's Tour of Philly


Philadelphia is home to many strange traditions, but one of the strangest has to be The Mummers' Parade. Every New Years Day, bands of people dressed in outlandish sequin-and-feather getups that took a year to construct march down Broad Street through South Philly, dancing, playing instruments, and generally making merry. There are thousands of people who do this, most of whom, I kid you not, are members of gentlemen's clubs bound together for this express purpose. Nowhere besides South Philly, asylum to cheesesteaks and post-riches Rocky, has the right mix of immigrants from Sweden, Ireland, England, Germany, Poland, and Italy, as well as African-Americans, to make this all seem logical.

On one peculiar South Philly corner, 2nd and Washington to be precise, is a museum dedicated to comummerating the annual ritual year-round. The Mummers Museum, a brown masonry box with a movie-palace-like art deco spire, was built, and apparently last updated, in 1976. I'm not joking: one plaque has mayor Frank Rizzo's tenure lasting 1972-present. It costs $3.50 to get in, and if you go at 12:30 on a Saturday, you might be the first customer all day. The lady at the desk wanted to make sure that we weren't looking for the Mutter Museum, as most are, and offered to show us "the video" if we really wanted it. The museum is full of the real costumes used in past parades, as well as interactive exhibits detailing the history of the parade, which began as a group of drunk guys firing guns. Some of the exhibits remain unbroken: by pressing a series of buttons, you can hear the sound of most of the pieces in an authentic Mummers String Band.

It's probably fair to say the museum is a bit like the lovechild of It's a Small World and the exhibit hall at the county fair, if it were born with fetal alcohol syndrome--but I mean that in a good way.

Previously on TheGoodReverend's Tour of Philly . . .

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

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11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the mutter museum is freakin awesome. It has Chang and Ang's skeleton, Former Chief Justice John Marshall's benign tumor (MARBURY VS MADISON), a fat lady whos body turned to soap after she was buried, everything.

7:29 PM  
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