The Mummer's parade in Philadelphia.
The Mummer's parade in Philadelphia. - 
Listen To The Story


Stacey Vanek-Smith: Philadelphia just announced it can't afford to host the annual New Year's Day Mummers Parade this year. So to keep the century-old tradition alive, the Mummers are going to pay to march. Gregory Warner has more.

Gregory Warner: The convention hall where the Mummers do their dry run is so large I have to be driven around by cart. The driver is Scott Brown:

Scott Brown: Each organization is given 60 foot wide space in which they can build. They have two days to bring in their props. As you can see, a prop can be up to 62 feet high.

Mummers like Brown contribute hundreds or thousands of dollars for their props and costumes. But last year, the city said it couldn't afford the extra police and trash collectors for the New Year's event. As Mummers director Jim Julia explains:

Jim Julia: Yeah, we're closing pools and we're closing libraries. OK? That's a legitimate argument. The difference is this: There's costumers that are in business simply because of the Mummers. Home Depot is out of plywood.

That's not true. But Jim says the parade does bring in millions of dollars more than it costs the city.

Supporters launched a fundraising campaign called Save the Mummers. State politicians, business owners and Kevin Bacon got involved. The Mummers have agreed to compensate the city $150,000 for their march on Friday. And the upshot is after all this attention, the old Mummers no longer feel taken for granted.

Julia: The Mummers were always there on January 1, and then last year all of a sudden somebody said there may not be a parade and that's when people -- we won the PR war, big time.

Now. Anyone for the pools and libraries?

In Philadelphia, I'm Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

Follow Gregory Warner at @radiogrego