Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Little Taste of Home

I haven't always lived in Chicago. I have only lived here for a little over 10 years. I have lived in Ohio and West Virginia, but I grew up in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia. South Philadelphia. 2nd Street (two street to the locals) to be exact. If you happen to know anything about the area, you know that is a very important distinction. South Philly is a pretty unique area. It is an inner city sanctuary filled with row homes that share party walls. Everybody knows everybody else and all their business. Many families have 3 and 4 generations all living on the same city block.

It is an area thick with culture and tradition. It has it's own unique foods like soft pretzels (get the super pretzel vision out of your head now) and 'water ice' (which is neither water or ice, but a refreshing summertime treat) and Cheese Steaks, mmmmmmm. We can't forget the unique shopping experiences like the Italian Market, a.k.a. 9th Street, and if you've ever been there, you'll agree that the stench is indeed unique. Basically, go rent Rocky and you'll see where I grew up.

Anywho, one of the coolest and most fun traditions that is uniquely South Philly is the Mummers Parade. It's is New Years Day extravaganza. An all day party in the streets (especially two street where many 'clubhouses' for the top String Bands are located) complete with food, drink (to the extreme - You have to stay warm somehow!) and entertainment. The parade used to last about 11 hours (but was cut to 6 hours this year because of budget constraints on the city) and the party even longer. There are 4 divisions of the parade, but the best part of the show is the String Bands. These showman are the stars of the party. Every member of the clubs plays a musical instrument. They work on their costumes, music, and choreography all year. Each club puts on about a 5 minute routine for the judges. These clubs are made up of your friends, family and neighbors of all ages from teens to retirees. It's Bob the fireman, and Dan the cop, Billy the plumber and his cousin Leo the trash man and the local butcher. They practice all year and show off tremendous talent on New Years day. The costuming is expensive and most of the sewing and embellishing is done by the wives, mothers and girlfriends of the club members. Completely amazing. This is 1st Place Winner ~ Fralinger String Band

Here is 2nd Place ~ Quaker City

And 3rd Place ~ South Philadelphia String Band

And I can't leave out my personal favorite of 2009(Melisa and de-I, may like this one too) 5th Place ~ Avalon String Band

The quality of the videos I have found do not do justice to the costumes, showmanship, and dancing that is being performed, all while playing there own music!

This New Years Party is the best in the country. It's kind of Philadelphia's version of Mardi Gras and it is one of the things I miss most about living there. If you ever have the chance to spend New Years in Philadelphia, take it. I now how to go quench my sudden craving for a Cheese Steak!

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23 comments:

Tara R. said...

In June we celebrate the pirate heritage of Florida, but it's nothing like this. Now I want to spend New Years in Philly!

Melisa said...

What a spectacle! I just can't get over the elaborate costumes, scenery, and choreography. (You're right: the last one was my fave too: representin' for the Jews! ha ha)

I have a good friend who is from Philly. Do you know her? just kidding. But I am going to tell her the next time I see her that I watched some of her hometown parade! Thanks for sharing this: totally cool.

Melissa said...

Wow, an 11 hour parade. Yikes, I guess you have to bring a port-a-potty and a picnic basket.

That's some pretty awesome stuff.

And your killing me slowly with your cheese steaks...yum-o!

Weaselmomma said...

@ Tara ~ Kind of makes the Rose Parade look Busch league, doesn't it?

@ Melisa ~ It's a great parade and a great time. If your friend lived in S. Philly, I probably know of the family at least.

@ Malissa ~ It is an all out party! And luckily my house was on the parade route. If I wasn't close to home I could pop in a friends. On New Years everyone held an open door policy and every kitchen hat a pot of soup and a pot of meatballs for sandwiches 'help yourself style'. That was South Philly.

terri said...

The closest thing I can think of that Minnesota has is the annual Winter Carnival, and it doesn't even compare. Thanks for sharing a piece of who you are. That was fun!

nonna said...

the south philly stuff is cool and all but hold the phone! did you say you lived in West Virginia??? that's def NIBA territory. your almost a redneck just for passing through w.va, but to actually live there, you better check your wallet. i'm sure you've got a NIBA card in there! you didn't meet your hubby while living there did you? are you sure he's not related to you??

Colleen - Mommy Always Wins said...

Wow, that's totally amazing! Thanks for sharing a taste of home with us!

Mama Smurf said...

I ran the Rocky steps!!! LOL.

I'm a dork.

I never pictured Philly as a party city but now I'll have to go back some day.

Weaselmomma said...

@ Terri ~ it really is a blast. And the fans are more rabid about this competition than college football fans are.

@ Nonna ~ I went to school in WV and yes, that's where I met Mr. Weasel!(no relation) What the heck is NIBA?

@ Coleen ~ There no other parade like it anywhere.

@ Mama Smurf ~ You're too funny. Each section of the city has a different flavor. St. Patty's and New Years are South Philadelphia open street par-tay!

The Microblogologist said...

While on the subject of parades you should post about the Illinois tradition, the Indictment Parade! This year's parade route: Governor's Mansion to Courthouse to Prison. And if the news I'm hearing is correct and the prosecutors are not a part of the problem then we might get a bonus parade, this one the whole nation can enjoy!

Those bands are too cool, I doubt I'd be able to walk in those costumes let alone dance and play an instrument! And are you implying that the cheese steak hot pockets are not equivalent to the ones you get in Philly?! The ASM (American Society for Microbiology) conference is in Philly this year, I'm too broke and too busy to go. Good thing for you, I'd probably get lost somewhere at least once and call you for directions in hope you know where I am. Note to self, if ever lost in Philly walk south or kidnap WeaselMomma as a prophylactic measure.

Weaselmomma said...

@ Micro ~ Those costumes are very heavy and some of the larger back pieces weigh 30+ lbs. They are marching for hours and miles. It's a great show. I so would not let you loose in Philly without a GPS and a guide.
Yes, for some reason Hot Pockets has not managed to duplicate the recipe.
And Finally, am am laughing myself city as I have never been referred to as a prophylactic!

The Microblogologist said...

This is definitely a "Karen is such a nerd" moment, I totally forgot that "prophylactic" is used for more than giving antibiotics to try and prevent infection... While some women who have 5 kids would potentially be a form of prophylactic in the "other" sense (this is Baby Sibling's "method") the weasels are way too cute and sweet, if anything you all would raise the birth rate (I need more babies to be auntie to so I am definitely dragging Cheryl next time I see you!).

In defense of my pathetic navigational skillz, I probably only got lost trying to find your house because of the snow and wind. The wind blew the snow and coated the street signs so I was driving with only the landmarks you gave me, thankfully they did not get buried in snow! Of course if your neighbor's garage door and your dining room window had been buried in snow finding your house would have been the least of our concerns... But yes, I should probably wear a GPS thing whenever I leave one of my areas, I got lost in my home town once for goodness sake (it was so Mom's fault, I should blog about that little tidbit sometime). And you would definitely be my choice of prophylactic Philly tour guide ;).

de-I said...

That's really wild stuff.

Hey I didn't know you were in Chicago (as I'm kinda new to your scene).

Pippin Party said...

Right in my neck of the woods. I love the Mummers. My grandma lived right down the street from the museum. It is really something though to see how great the costumes are. Cheers to you!

Momisodes said...

WOW! That is amazing. I would LOVE to attend this if I ever had the chance. The costumes, music and choreography is so impressive! I can only imagine what it's like in person.

p.s. I SO want a cheese steak now, too.

NukeDad said...

How cool is that? I'd love to see something like that. This is the first I've ever heard of it. OH, I can rock the homemade Philly, though. I'm sure it isn't as good as yours, but I do have 20+ years of restaurant goodness and culinary love that go into that Sam's Club Philly meat!

Michelle said...

Wow! Now that is cool. Way cool. That has to be so fun to be there (and not like the normal parades that I could totally skip and be happy). Here's hoping you make it there again soon!

Weaselmomma said...

@ Micro ~ You crack me up. I want to read about that story.

@ de-I ~ It's really something else.

@ Pippin ~ Thanks for coming by. Did she live on on 2nd street or Washington ave?

@ Momisodes ~ MMMMM, that's what I made for dinner.

@ NukeDad ~ Here's the secret. Get the local butcher to freeze a ribeye for you and then use the sliced to make paper thin slices separated with wax paper by the portion-freeze flat. Shred it as it cooks into itty bitty pieces. Add American or provolone(no whiz) and fried onions and anything else you like. Serve on FRESH Italian roll.

@ Michelle ~ I can skip any other parade also. This one is pure fun.

Tom said...

Used to love me a good Philly cheese steak now and then, before cholesterol got the better of us. Sacrilege, I know, but we made ours with provolone cheese and used green peppers as well. Anyway, we liked them. They're unfortunately relegated to the "twice a year treat" category for us. But, they're oh, so good.

Weaselmomma said...

@ Tom ~ They certainly won't keep you healthy. Fresh Green peppers can be good, but you will not be served them at any self respecting joint. Good variations include, Pizza steak (mozzerela and pizza sauce), Mushroom Cheese Steak (add mushroom slices) and Cheesesteak Hogie (tomato, lettuce and Mayo((Yuck)) ).

Chris H said...

TOTALLY AMAZING! Those bands are just fantastic! Thanks for sharing.

Bad Momma said...

Cool videos. I'll have to stop at Steak Escape on my way home tonight to pick up dinner to eat while I watch the parade!

oscar said...

Getting to know you....
Getting to know all about you.....

I like Chicago better. everytime I go to Philly I have a problem. I must write about it one day.

I work right between NYC and Philly. Live 25 miles from NYC. Would rather go to NYC than Philly. People here call it Killadelphia. BUT, The good things you mentioned are great. Lot's of culture!

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