This morning, the Jolly Jolly Comics—a comics division of the Mummers—will take to Philadelphia's Broad Street with more than 200 participants, several of them Cinnaminson natives.
Thanks to township residents Brian Callahan and Tommy Wheeler—neighbors who grew up on the same street in the Juniata Park section of Philadelphia—the tradition has lived on for three decades.
Now, Callahan and Wheeler are getting their children involved…and their children’s friends.
“As the years have gone by,” Callahan said, “with all of us getting married and having kids, now all of our kids are in the parade.”
It started 30 years ago for 46-year-old Callahan. A former Mummers band, the Juniata Strutters, used to meet in the home behind his in Philadelphia. One New Year’s Eve, Callahan asked his father if he could venture over since he recognized some of the guys.
“’We have an extra costume,’ they said,” Callahan said. “That’s how I started.”
The Strutters disassembled some years later and in the early 1990s, Richard Jolly, a fellow Mummer and friend of Callahan’s, decided to start his own brigade, the Jolly Jolly Comics. Callahan joined.
Within the group is a brigade of Cinnaminson residents, made up of mostly of friends of Callahan’s son Brian Jr., 13, and his daughter Rylee, 9. This year, the Cinnaminson brigade nears 20.
Callahan and Wheeler, whose three daughters Grace, Olivia and Julia participate as well, are co-captains of the Cinnaminson brigade.
Preparation starts early in the year—in February. That’s when the group gets together and chooses a theme. Then, costume planning is next. A seamstress in Washington hand makes each one.
The Jolly Jolly Comics just got their 2013 costumes this week; it took about four months to make them all. That’s the brigade’s major expense. They hold a few fundraisers throughout the year to help offset costs.
A few days ago, the group met at Jolly’s house in Pennsylvania to get the costumes separated, wigs handed out and the beads where they need to go.
“As we walk, you take your beads off and throw them to people in the crowd,” Callahan said. “Kids love that.”
Seventy-five cans of golden spray paint are ready to be sprayed on more than 200 pairs of slippers—a staple of every Mummer.
And the theme this year for the Jolly Jolly Comics is golden Elvis. A loop of about six Elvis Presley hits will keep the Jolly Jolly Comics strutting their stuff down Broad Street.
But the group won’t practice.
“We start at Broad and Washington,” Callahan said, “and as we’re walking up, we talk about what we’re going to do. It’s what makes it as funny as it is. It’s just about going down there and having a good time.”
The brigade hopes to still place in the competition though; the highest they’ve ranked is fourth.
The Jolly Jolly Comics is made up of Mummers from South Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware County, Pa., and more. The children’s brigade within the brigade is all Cinnaminson kids, Callahan said. The following local families are involved: The Callahan's, the Wheeler's, the Miller's, the Sunnie's, the Campbell's, the Bergan's, the Collins, The Fusco's and The Gee's.
The group will be on television and usually is shown anywhere from 10 to 11:30 a.m. New Year's Dave. After their presentation, the entire group will have lunch at Tir Na Nog, in Center City.
“Then we get our spot at Broad and Locust and watch the string bands and fancies,” he said. “I just enjoy being down there on Broad Street. It’s just such a fun day in town.”