Despite Financial Threat, Mummers Continue to Strut « The Washington Independent
Not even an economic crisis can stop Philadelphia’s Mummers from holding their annual New Year’s parade today, Bloomberg reports.
The parade, which began in 1901 and has been held every year since then, was nearly canceled this time around because the city cut its funding due to a $1 billion budget shortfall. Private donors came up with enough funds at the last minute to continue the tradition, which is as much a part of Philadelphia as cheese steaks and the Liberty Bell.
But while the parade goes on this year, the city has made it clear its budget woes mean it won’t be able to contribute much next year either, leaving organizers to scramble for money once again.
“A damn disgrace” is how Rose Marie Cola, a 67-year-old grandmother from South Philadelphia, describes the city’s abandonment of the Mummers. The event, known for its string bands decked out in sequins and ostrich plumes, has been staged every year since 1901, ranking it with the Liberty Bell, cheese steaks and Benjamin Franklin as a Philadelphia icon. “The Mummers parade is a family tradition,” Cola said in a telephone interview. “It’s one of the last true Philadelphia things. Everybody in South Philadelphia has a connection to the Mummers in one way or another.”Philadelphia, the U.S.’s sixth-largest city, announced the budget cuts in November. A shortfall in tax revenue and a decline in the value of stocks held by the city’s pension funds swelled the gap in Mayor Michael Nutter’s five-year spending plan to more than $1 billion.“These are unprecedented financial times,” said Doug Oliver, a spokesman for the city. “We simply could not afford to provide financial support at the same level we did last year and we won’t be able to provide support moving forward.”
The threat to the Mummers is another sign of how much everyday life is changing because of the economic crisis. The message here is: Don’t take anything for granted. It might not be around tomorrow.