National Geographic : 2001 Jan
A Labor ofLove t took two dozen pages to carry the gargantuan cape of one Mummer in 1947 (right). Competing under a system of arcane rules, Mummers clubs go to extrava gant lengths to win bragging rights-andcity prize money -awarded to thosejudged best on New Year's Day.In 2000 a battalion of marshalssteered a 130-pound Carmen Miran da aroundCity Hall to serve as a propfor the Avalon String Band's Broadway-style show. Two days before, captain Scott Moyer (left) marched the GreaterKensington String Band down a neighborhood basketball courtfor one last drill. "Professionalscould learn this in a few hours, but these guys are truck drivers,"joked a fan from the sidelines. "It takes them a few months." For longer than that the band sold raffle tickets and played wed dings so that on January1 they could tradework boots and jeansfor glitteringcostumes costing up to $4,000 each. Playingfor money and pride, a church band hired by a Mummers club warms up in the chill of New Year's morn ing. White Mummers in black face once paraded.Since the practice was banned in the 1960s, more African Ameri cans have joined the event.