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 Mummers

Aldan Resident Struts his Stuff in Annual Mummers Bash

By Laura Wisely
Delaware County Daily Times

ALDAN, Pennsylvania, December 30, 2011 - Before any of the costumes that the members of the Hog Island Mummers Brigade will wear in the 2012 Philadelphia Mummers Parade see the light of Broad Street, they have to face Kenny Medeiros.

He’ll examine every sequin, check that every feather’s firmly attached. There are colors to be matched and hems to be checked.

“Some people watch football, some people play baseball,” Medeiros explained. “I’m a Mummer.”

And not just any Mummer. For the fifth consecutive year, Medeiros will captain the 200-member Hog Island Mummers Brigade along the parade route this year, having conceived a theme, chosen music, choreographed a routine and, of course, spearheaded the efforts to create those costumes, along with a fleet of assistants and associates.

Medeiros’ Mummers career started with the 1967 parade, when he was just 13 years old. He started in the Fancy division with the Oregon brigade, then moved on to what was then the Lobster New Year’s brigade. He spent 12 years as captain and president of the South Philadelphia Vikings, then eight years with Hegeman, then another year with Oregon before landing at Hog Island in 1999.

“I became captain in 2007, and off we went,” he said.

There’s been plenty to do. Mummery is nearly a full-time occupation. Though Medeiros lives in Aldan, he spends much of his time at Hog Island headquarters on Second Street.

“We perform all year long,” he said, “but the New Year’s Parade is our big thing.”

Planning for the 2012 parade started just a few days after Philly rang in 2011. With a fellow member, Medeiros thought up this year’s theme — The Roaring ’20s, complete with a full-size speakeasy, gangsters and gals — and started prepping models and props.

“About two weeks after the 2011 parade, we got going, and bam, we had our theme,” he said. “We have more than 20 entries — Handsome, King Clown, King Jockey and on from there — so there’s a lot to do.” 

Medeiros’ overriding rule is continuity in everything, from the costumes to the music to the choreography — a lesson he learned when he first became a Mummer.

“Everything you do has to suit the theme,” he said. “You have to understand what you’re doing. With the Roaring ’20s, you have to research it, know about it, know the music. You have to make sure everything fits. It’s like a car — you have to put the wheels on the chassis before you can get it going.”

He also has to make sure every costume is on point, drawing on well-honed design skills to bring the theme together.

“I’ve met so many nice people who took the time to teach me how to make patterns, how design works, how a collection works,” he said. “They took the time to teach me how to do this, and I carry a lot of those traits through everything we do.”

A typical day for Medeiros might include shopping for costume material, overseeing building operations at the club, and attending dance rehearsals. It’s a job that’s not without anxiety.

“A lot of time, I’ll break out in a cold sweat,” he said. “But I know it’ll all be worth it.”

New Year’s Day, on the other hand, is anything but typical. Medeiros will rise at 5 a.m. after “a couple hours” of sleep, head to the club and meet with Hog Island’s make-up artist, who’s already started fixing up the club members who will hit the streets later that day.

“I round up the troops, we go to our garage at 25th and Moore to get our stuff, and by 7:30 we’re headed down to Broad and Snyder.”

This year’s set includes, in addition to 175 or so marchers, a string band show front that depicts an abandoned warehouse with empty beer barrels in front and a sign reading “Closed for Prohibition” on the door. The music starts, the show front turns around, and spectators are taken into a bustling speakeasy complete with craps tables, gangsters and plenty of booze.

“In April of this year, we lost Bob Craig, one of our longtime members,” Medeiros said. “If you look closely at our set, you’ll see that there’s an 8-by-10 photo of him included, and the place is called ‘Bob’s Hot Spot.’ We make sure everything is in there.” 

The music is fun, the dancing is festive, and the routine is surprising.

“We’ve got a real big surprise for everyone at the end,” Medeiros promised with a laugh. “I’m not going to tell you what it is, but you’ll know what it is when you hear it.”

After Hog Island’s 20 troupes march down Broad Street — a process that takes each division about a half-hour — it’s time to break down the sets, take off the costumes and head back to the garage.

“We load up three semis to bring everything back, which takes about two hours,” Medeiros said. “The bus full of club members meets us there, we grab a cooler, and we head back to the club and wait for the results.”

And that’s something Medeiros likes to hear in person, rather than over the phone.

“That way, we tell everybody at once,” he said. “That’s how it should be.”

Even after putting in the equivalent of two full days at the office, Medeiros said, many Hog Islanders will remain at the club until the wee hours, watching other bands march up Second Street. He probably won’t be among them this year, he said.

“Years ago I did it, but it’s getting to be such a long day,” he said. “I’ve found out that as I get older, it’s no big deal anymore. The big deal is the performance and heading home happy afterwards.”

So, after hearing the results of the 2012 Mummers Parade, and hopefully celebrating a win or two or 10, he’ll head home with his wife, Margie, who he married last year after meeting her at Hog Island. There will be more work to do the next day, unloading trucks, watching tapes and the like.

“I never thought I would have signed on for this, but I’m glad I did,” he said. “I’ll keep running until the wheels fall off. The Mummers Parade is alive and well and it keeps on ticking, and however long the good Lord wants me to do this, I’ll do it.”

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