Surviving the Alsatia Mummers Parade

Five things to know whether it's your first or 50th time seeing the parade

Five things to know whether it's your first or 50th time seeing the parade

October 29, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

If it's Halloween in Hagerstown, it's mummer time.

The 85th Alsatia Mummers Parade is set for 6 p.m. Halloween, along Potomac Street. It starts at the North End of Hagerstown, slices through the heart of the city and wraps up in the South End - and brings with it thousands of participants and spectators.

The parade's host, the Alsatia Club, bills it as the largest nighttime parade on the East Coast. If this is the case, one ought to approach this parade with a bit of strategy, whether it's your first or 50th time attending the spectacle.

Here are five tips for happy mummering this year:

1. Find parking before the parade starts.

Streets will close and they will close early. City officials make parking off limits as early as 11 a.m. on parade day - with Potomac Street and other major streets in and around the parade route the first among the restrictions. Another no-parking wave happens around 4 p.m.


Vehicles parked in violation on posted streets will be towed at owners' expense.

Street closings and traffic detours start at 4:30 p.m. and police are warning motorists to expect delays, as a result.

If you get there early:

Alsatia Club will host an opening ceremony at 4 p.m. at its headquarters, 141 W. Washington St., where the Alsatia Queen will be chosen from among area high school homecoming queens.

If you get there really early:

The Maryland Theatre is screening the animated film "Monster House" at 10:30 a.m. and at 1 p.m. on parade day, catering to a pre-mummers crowd. Tickets cost $6 and will be available at The Maryland Theatre box office before the screenings and at the door.

2. Bring plenty of cash for food.

This suggestion comes from parade chair James McCleaf II. The parade starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m. - a long time for kids to go without something substantial to eat. Concession stands and public bathrooms will be near Bester Elementary School at the interesection of Memorial Boulevard. Also, many businesses and nonprofits offer concessions along the route.

3. Get a good seat.

Thinking you can simply plop your own chair on the curb 15 minutes before parade time is a rookie move. Most sidewalks are packed well before the parade begins. Experienced parade-watchers set out chairs early in the day to claim spots.

You can also purchase a street-side or bleacher seat ahead of time - the Alsatia Club uses the proceeds as part of its fundraising efforts, McCleaf said. You can buy tickets at The Maryland Theatre box office ahead of the parade, if they aren't sold out. McCleaf said people wait until right about now to see what the weather's going to be like, triggering a last-minute run on tickets if the weather man says it's going to be nice.

Best seats in the house? That depends on what you want to see. Public Square is a scene all its own, where crowds can get pretty thick. This year's parade dignitaries include Grand Marshal state Sen. Donald F. Munson; Honorary Grand Marshals Jaime Mason, Washington County Teacher of the Year, and Blaine Young, a radio personality in Frederick, Md.; and an appearance by Miss Maryland Brooke Poklemba.

If you're there for the marching bands, well, you can hear them all along the route. But the bands play their best when passing the judging stand near Bester - where bleacher seats and food vendors are.

4. You're going to be outside for a while, so dress like it.

Last year, the Alsatia Club pushed the parade's start time one hour earlier to 6 p.m.

"It went so well, I don't think we'll ever go back," McCleaf said.

That said, the parade still won't end until around 10 p.m. That's four hours outside.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a high of 67 and a low of 47, with a 40 percent chance of showers during the day and the night.

This parade is held rain or shine.

5. Enjoy yourself!

If you go ...

WHAT: 85th Annual Mummers' Parade

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31. Rain or shine.

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

CONTACT: Tickets are available at The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., or at For more information about the parade, call 301-739-2044 or go to

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