Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Milestone birthday gives Simoneau a reason to strut

Heather Simoneau (left) will be marching with Kathe Morrow, Humanities Librarian (right), and Tina Hertel, Help Desk/Web Support Librarian (center), in the annual Mummers Parade on Jan. 1.

The big 4-0.

Most people dread the day when they turn 40. Instead of cringing when she turned 40, Heather Simoneau ’90, Business Librarian, decided to celebrate it in an unusual way. Simoneau is going to commemorate the landmark, by marching in Philadelphia’s annual Mummers Parade this New Year’s Day.

And she won’t be strutting alone.

Simoneau will be marching with two colleagues, Kathe Morrow, Humanities Librarian, and Tina Hertel, Help Desk/Web Support Librarian, her two children, and two other acquaintances.

The name of her group is “Southside Strutters.”

Simoneau and the Strutters are going to march as comics as a part of the Murray Comic Club, which has won first place for the past 10 years.

“We may not be the funniest [group] but we’ll be the most thoroughly researched,” Simoneau says laughing.

Growing up close to Philadelphia, Simoneau has known about the Mummers Parade from an early age. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on New Year’s Day she would be fixated on the television screen watching men and women with painted faces and ornate costumes march down Broad Street.

“I always watched it and thought it would be fun. What am I waiting for? My 90th birthday when I can’t even walk down Broad Street?” Simoneau says.

The Mummers Parade is a long-standing tradition—officially since 1901, but unofficially since the late 1700’s—which involves people dressing up and bringing in the New Year by marching from South Philadelphia to Center City along Broad Street. Crowds line the street to see the costumes, hear the music and take in the essence of Philadelphia’s spirit.

The parade consists of four different divisions: the comics, the fancies, the string bands and the fancy brigades. Within each of these divisions are mother clubs that compete against each other to win the title in their respective division. Mother clubs with the most points win, and in the Comic division, points are awarded to individuals, couples, groups and brigades marching for a mother club.

Comics typically march with colorful attire, clown-like face paint, parasols, and gold shoes, in conjunction with the parade’s theme song, Oh! Dem Golden Slippers.

Simoneau hasn’t come up with the Strutters’ costume yet, but wants it to be fun and incorporate literacy. And, she says, they will all definitely be wearing the traditional gold shoes.

“I’m going to be a mummer,” Simoneau says, “and I’m going to do the whole thing.”

She couldn’t convince her husband, Scott Simoneau ’88, ’93G to march but he will be driving the banner car. Her father-in-law has already rented a hotel room and is ready to watch the parade from his window.

“Now I really can’t back out!” Simoneau says.

In fact, the Mummers Parade is very family oriented, she says. If you aren’t marching with relatives then you are marching next to long-time friends who’ve become family.

Simoneau is planning to stock up her banner car with hot chocolate and bandages. She also wants to put thermal wraps under the costumes so she and the Strutters can stay warm.

Simoneau says she’s heard ‘once a mummer, always a mummer,’ which excites her because this will most likely be the one and only time she will be a participant.

“I’m really going to be a one-hit wonder,” Simoneau says. “This is the year—my year to march.”

--Lauren Martiello ’09

Posted on Saturday, December 20, 2008

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