Clevemore Fancy Brigade co-captain Joe Rita loves the connections he built from the club and the annual parade.
By KRYSTAL NURSE
On New Year’s Day, Joe Rita and the Clevemore Fancy Brigade strutted down Broad Street in Philadelphia for the 119th Mummers Parade with a rendition of “Be Our Guest” from the Disney film “Beauty and the Beast.”
Rita, co-captain of the brigade, said brigade officers meet a week after the parade to review taped comments of the judges to see where they need to improve, what to keep up and ultimately, what will allow them to place in their division.
“We submitted it in March and it was approved by the division and we started putting the show together,” said Rita, referencing this year’s theme. He went on to state Clevemore began to put together its routine in the spring, and by Labor Day, the set and costumes were created. Final details were made on New Year’s Eve.
While they did not receive the placement they wished — they placed 11th in the fancy brigade division — Rita said the experience was fun regardless.
“It was great,” said Rita. “It was one of the best ones we’ve had. It was incredible. Comparing last year to this year, the crowd’s attendance was vastly different. From freezing cold last year to 60 degrees this year, the crowd was 10 to 20 [people] deep.”
When the club isn’t on TV, Rita said they parade to and from the city convention center on Broad Street with their DJ and interact with the crowd and dance in the streets in the morning hours. Following their judged performance, they join other Mummers on Washington Avenue and 2nd Street to party and celebrate the new year.
Rita said he’s been a part of the parade for the past 23 years and it has become a tradition in his family to join in on the all-day fun. Outside of the club, he’s a construction manager.
“It now runs in my family now, and my cousin introduced it to me and my sister and brother-in-law, niece and nephew have joined,” said Rita. “It’s been in for a long time. I can’t be any more proud of my daughter and watching her and the passion she has with it.”
Club members, he said, range from being from Philadelphia, to southern New Jersey to Delaware.
Building up to each year’s performance, Rita added the main struggle they find is funding for the parade — it costs from $70,000 to $80,000 to perform — which the club fundraisers for throughout the year in Philadelphia and surrounding communities.
Outside of the Mummers Parade, Clevemore participates in local parades in Philadelphia, which some are paid, southern New Jersey and sometimes north for St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
Rita said membership to the club is open to anyone, and prospective members should contact them on their website (www.Clevemore.com) to learn how they can get involved and participate in upcoming Mummers Parades.
“Mummers is all about family and our clubs are our family,” said Rita. “It doesn’t matter, we can get the worst prize of the world and we’ll stick together through thick and thin. I’ve made lots of friends through this club.”