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Mummers Fancy Brigades Making Final Preparations For New Year Extravaganzas

Steve Tawa Steve Tawa
Steve Tawa joined KYW Newsradio in 1990, and splits his time between...
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By Steve Tawa, Nicole Brewer

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – With the Mummers Parade right around the corner, “fancy” brigades have begun setting up shop inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center for the indoor showcase on New Year’s Day.

“We were able to get everything in yesterday. We’ll get the pieces up today and tomorrow, we’ll get everything together structurally,” said Bob Runowski of the Golden Crown Fancy Brigade.

The Mummers fancy brigade clubs are the most theatrical of the bunch when compared to the “comics,” “fancies” and “string band” divisions.  Members of the ten fancy brigade clubs haul elaborate floats and props up Broad Street and into the cavernous convention center.

With five days until New Years, Mummers consider this their crunch time. With a team of 12, it will take the Golden Crown Fancy Brigade over 700 more hours to finish their set.

“It’s a very involved and intensive process, but also a labor of love,” explained Runowski.

And that is why he continues to come back.

At 31-years-old, Runowski has seen these elaborate sets transform for the past 27 years, all care of last minute paint jobs, props and special effects. Not to mention the colorful costumes that have come to define the oldest parade in America.

“You’re either a Mummer or you’re not. That’s why we’re here. I mean, it’s certainly a competition and everyone wants to win. But, more than that, it’s about being around each other,” said Runowski.

Have you seen any of the “Mad Max” movies?  Then check out the Golden Crown New Year’s Brigade.

“We actually took elements from three ‘Mad Max movies,'” says member Bob Runowski.  “We have some of the vehicles from Mad Max 2.  We have the thunderdome from Beyond Thunderdome.”

Zach Birch, a member of Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars, was setting up large red telephone booths as part of their “superhero” theme.

(Bill McIntyre's Shooting Stars fancy brigade sets up part of its production.  Credit: Steve Tawa)

(Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars fancy brigade sets up part of its production. Credit: Steve Tawa)

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“It’s called ‘Superheros’ — superheros, super thrills,” Birch explains.  “As everyone knows, Clark Kent goes in the phone booth and Superman comes out.  We’ll see how that gimmick pulls off.”

Nicky D’alonzo also takes pride in the 111-year-old tradition. As the creative director for the Down Towners, he developed the theme and produced the group’s routine. He admits it’s a lot of work, but says it always comes together.

“I’ve been a member for 35 years and always gotten it done. When we get down to the end, we know we’ll get there. It’s just a matter of getting it done,” said D’alonzo.

At their assigned showtime on January 1st, in their lavish costumes, each club will break into a 4½-minute routine set to high-energy music.

More information, including how to buy tickets for the Convention Center finale,  is available at mummers.com/tickets.