Thousands brave cold for Alsatia Mummers Parade

October 28, 2006|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

The Alsatia Club motto says: "Yield not to adversity, but oppose it."

Thousands of Alsatia Mummers Parade spectators did just that on Saturday, putting up with temperatures in the low 40s and a light chilly wind.

They watched about 190 floats, bands, dance troupes and people in costume pass before them along one of Hagerstown's main north-south roads.

Sidewalk crowds whooped at the Ali Ghan Motor Corps of Cumberland, Md., which included people in skeleton masks doing tight figure-8s in motorized carts.


Spectators applauded and cheered school musical groups, such as the Clear Spring High School Reflections Show Choir dancing on a flatbed trailer to Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing."

The city's annual grand Halloween spectacle is one of Washington County's largest spectator activities. Alsatia Club members say it might be the largest night parade on the East Coast.

The challenge for many observers is keeping warm enough to withstand two hours of outdoor revelry in late October.

Ted Reeder and friends Chuck Weaver and Sal DiMercurio had a primal solution ? fire. They burned logs inside cages in the front yard of Reeder's business, Tiger's Eye Benefits Consulting, on North Potomac Street.

Some people congregated in the windows of storefronts, such as at the Sam Tooma & Son Oriental rug shop and Cozzoli Studio photography shop.

Seated in rows two, three and four deep along the road, some people were hatless, but many swathed themselves in blankets.

Michael Hall, 5, was wrapped tightly in both clothing and the arms of his mother, Susan Hall of Hagerstown. Susan Hall said her son is fond of the bands and the mummers, people dressed in costumes.

On a porch behind the Halls, volunteers from John Wesley United Methodist Church sold warm nourishment. Bunny Debow of Hagerstown said hot chocolate and two kinds of soup ? vegetable and noodle ? sold well.

As Girl Scouts, Beverly Healthcare, the Hagerstown Giants, the Tri-State Farm Toy Collectors Club and other organizations rolled by on floats, vendors hawked toys from carts, police officers stood guard and children waved glowing sticks.

Parents hoisted young children onto their shoulders for a clearer view.

Some spectators chose a higher vantage point in the city's parking garage.

Bob Golliday of Keedysville, his fiancée and their children mostly had the fourth level of the garage to themselves as the parade began.

Several groups tailgated on the second level.

Joyce Kirsch of Hagerstown said 20 to 40 people were there to cheer on the Western Heights Middle School band.

When the band goes by, "we're going to be just going crazy," said Kirsch, who was particularly interested in seeing her daughter, Brynne, a flutist.

Elected officials waved to people from the back of convertible cars in the parade.

Challengers hoping to get elected worked the crowd from the sidelines. Washington County's Democrats gave away hot dogs at their headquarters.

Before the parade, at the Alsatia Club's headquarters, Clear Spring High School senior Amy Burgesser was chosen as the queen of the parade.

A Hagerstown police sergeant said by phone Saturday night that he hadn't heard of any problems.

Which is what the Alsatia Club had in mind when it first held the Mummers Parade on Halloween in 1921 as a diversion from mischief and vandalism.

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