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  Field Notes From
Kings for a Day

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From Author

Karen E. Lange

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From Photographer

Vincent J. Musi

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Sarah Leen (top) and Penny De Los Santos

image: pencil
Marching With the Mummers

Field Notes From Author
Karen E. Lange
After being away from my husband and six-month-old son for most of New Year’s Day, I wanted to spend the last few hours together with them on Two Street. But we didn’t know if it was the sort of place you took an infant. We had heard things got pretty wild there. We knew that Mummers liked babies—one spotted Jeremy among the spectators and gave him his wench’s hat, a floppy white bonnet of the sort women wore in Colonial times. But we worried the crowd on Two Street might contain some ugly drunks. Well, there were some inebriated people there but I have seldom felt so safe in a big city or seen heavily drinking people handle alcohol so well. In fact, the only sign of trouble we saw was a car left straddling the curb. It had been dealt summary justice: Someone had smashed the windshield and then left a no-parking notice.
Families gathered all along the sidewalks. They brought babies out onto the stoops to watch the Mummers march. A toddler ran into the street to dance with a Mummer dressed as a tin soldier. It was just blocks of people having unselfconscious fun, a kind of amiable chaos. The police stood by with nothing to do.
I watched the new millennium start on CNN in my hotel room. Outside I could hear fireworks, part of Philadelphia’s 24-hour New Year’s celebration. But I couldn’t actually leave the hotel to see them because I was supposed to meet photographer Vince Musi in the hotel lobby at 5:15 the next morning to go to a 6 a.m. pre-parade event. If I’d been feeling better I might have stayed up a little later, but my husband, my son, and I were all coming down with colds. Fifteen minutes into the new year, I took some Comtrex and went to sleep. Part of the Mummers’ tradition is collecting the ribbons issued by clubs and others to commemorate parades. By the time the 2000 parade started, I had three: One to mark me as a member of the press, another from the Goodtimers Mummers, and the third—and by far the largest—given out by the city to anyone who managed to rise early enough to attend the 6 a.m. pre-parade. This ribbon measured over a foot long and was emblazoned with “2000.” I pinned it to my bag, and it caught the eye of some women behind the barricades near the judges stand. They were serious Mummer fans who had taken their places around 7 a.m., and they wanted my ribbon.
“Can you give us your ribbon? You don’t need it,” they called.
“No,” I replied, and the response was instant.
One of the women showered me with confetti—little, shiny flecks of gold and green and purple and red. It fell in my hair, down my coat, into my bag. “Happy New Year!” she said.
Six months later I was still finding those flecks at home and in my office. Now that they are finally gone (I vacuumed out my bag), I feel a little sad.

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