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Where have all the mummers gone?

Costumed characters become few and far between for Alasatia Mummers Parade

Costumed characters become few and far between for Alasatia Mummers Parade

October 24, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

The Alsatia Mummers Parade is said to be the largest nighttime parade in the East Coast and annually draws thousands of participants, but last year only six of those participants entered as mummers.

And there's no indication that there will be significantly more mummers this year. Mummer participants show up the night of the parade, said parade chairman James McCleaf II.

"It is what it is," McCleaf said.

For decades, celebrating Halloween Hub City-style meant watching a nearly two-mile segment of Potomac Street transform into a sea of marching bands, floats and mummers - the name for marchers in elaborate costumes - for the Alsatia Club's Mummers parade.

The Mummers Parade enters its 85th year and has been set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31.

Based on McCleaf's records, if you combined the number of mummers who participated in the past six Mummers Parades, you'd only have 45 mummers - enough to fill out a high school marching band roster.

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Where have all the mummers gone?

"That's a good question," McCleaf said.

Maybe more groups are entering floats. Maybe there are more unofficial "mummers" in the crowd and not marching between floats and bands along Potomac Street.

Maybe people aren't quite sure what a mummer is.

"I'm not sure people understand what a true mummer is any more," said Cindy Brown, director of programs at Otterbein United Methodist Church near the heart of downtown Hagerstown.

Otterbein United Methodist Church is a perennial winner of the Mummer's float contest. Brown has been in many of mummer's parades - though mostly on a church float or with other church members.

Brown said she's noticed fewer mummers in the Mummers Parade.

The Oxford American Dictionary defines mummer as an actor in a traditional masked mime, especially associated with Christmas and popular in England in the 18th and 19th centuries. The word's origins have late Middle English, Old French and Germanic roots, "momer" meant to act in a mime.

However, some of the earliest mummers date back to early Egypt and pagan Rome, and Greece, according to Philadelphia-based organization Save The Mummers - formed to raise money for Philadelphia's 2010 New Years' Day mummer's parade, thought to be in jeopardy due to the tough economy.

Philly's first official Mummers Parade was Jan. 1, 1901 and now boasts more than 10,000 marchers, according to the group.

But in Hagerstown, even if the number of mummers in the Alsatia Mummers Parade got down to zilch, the Alsatia Club plans to stays true to its roots, McCleaf said.

The Alsatia Club formed as a men's club in 1911 and has since functioned as a benevolent group in Hagerstown. The club held its first Mummers Parade in 1921 to give would-be pranksters something constructive to do when Halloween rolls around.

"Mummers or not, purpose has always been the same," McCleaf said.




If you go ...



WHAT: 85th annual Alsatia Mummers Parade

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31.

WHERE: The 1.9 mile route runs along Potomac Street, starting on the North End at Wayside Avenue and ending at West Wilson Boulevard.

COST: Free to simply watch the parade. $8 tickets required for chair seats along the route; $5 for bleacher seats, which are in front of Bester Elementary School, at South Potomac Street just north of Memorial Boulevard.

MORE: Call 301-739-2044, or go to www.alsatiaclubinc.com




Prizes for best mummer



[body copy] Cash prizes will be given out for people who enter as mummers in this year's Alsatia Mummers Parade. For more information on how to participate, call the Alsatia Club at 301-739-2044.

Most elaborate

First - $50

Second - $40

Third - $30

Fourth - $20

Honorable mention - $10

Comic

First - $50

Second - $40

Third - $30

Fourth - $20

Honorable mention - $10

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