History of the Broward County Mummers
January 1, 2001 marked the 100th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Mummers Parade. This is a tradition that generations of people in the Northeast have attended each year. Here in South Florida, we also have a Mummers Band, although it is not quite as old as the Bands in Philly.
"What is a Mummer?" is the most often asked question from those not familiar with the concept. Strictly speaking, a Mummer is a masked or costumed entertainer, and the Broward County Mummers fill the bill when it comes to costumes. Each year, the band members vote on a theme for the new costumes. After everyone has his or her say about what they think the costume should look like, a committee makes a prototype and presents it to the rest. The result is a very colorful and vibrant showing, complete with Ostrich feathers and sequins. The costumes are designed to compliment the type of music the band performs, Riverboat style Dixieland.
The second most often asked question is why do people perform as volunteers when they could be getting pay jobs for their talents. This is not an easy question to answer for those not familiar with performing. The band plays many venues, but most of the shows are done in retirement communities. The audiences are people who remember the music from their youth and are extremely appreciative of the songs performed. To watch people in their 90ís and older get up and dance and listen to them sing and clap along creates a feeling that is almost indescribable for the performers. The "pay" a member gets is an inner glow that comes from bringing joy to others. Creating an atmosphere of fun and happiness is what a Mummerís show is all about.
A Mummers band is made up of a variety of instruments Ė strings, bells, woodwinds, accordions, keyboard and percussion. The most notable exception is that there are no brass instruments in a Mummers band. The musicians range from professionals to amateurs to beginners and no one is turned away who wishes to learn to play. The more experienced members teach the less experienced. Ages range from middle school kids to members in their 80ís. There are also members known as "Strutters", whose job is to get audience members out of their chairs and dance. There is one individual who is the lead "Strutter" called the Captain, and he wears the most elaborate costume in the band. Currently Jack Hultman holds the job of Captain. Hultman started the Long Island Mummers and was its Captain for 25 years. Eight years ago he retired to South Florida and took over the duties of Captain for the Broward County Mummers. Among his many functions, he is the booking agent for the band.
Engagements for the Band over the years has included , playing on gambling cruise ships (Sea Escape and Discovery), playing for almost every city in Broward and Palm Beach Counties for one of their events, and numerous condominiums and retirement homes. Some of the most poignant performances were in the tent cities in Homestead after Hurricane Andrew. The commander of one of the camps told the Band that since he had arrived, he had not seen any of the children smile, but after watching the kids march around the entire camp to "Itís a Small World" and "When the Saints Go Marching In", he felt that they had turned a corner and would recover.
The Broward County Mummers Band wishes to keep the tradition alive, but they need new members. To contact the Band for either membership or performances, call Janice Daisy-Little/Capt 954-784-9904
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