New Year's Day tradition rolls on in Middletown

The Hummers Parade, full of political and celebrity satire, will start at about 1 p.m. in Middletown on New Year’s Day, Tuesday, Jan. 1.

A spoof of the Philadelphia Mummers Parade, the Hummers Parade has no registration, membership, or rules. It’s for anybody who wants to be in the parade and have their own style.

Jack Schreppler, the parade’s “grand marshal for life,” said spontaneity is the hallmark of the event.

“If we had registrations and meetings, I think the parade would have died out years ago. I know I would have quit,” he said.

Instead, the light-hearted fun has continued for more than 40 years. Parents may need to hide their children’s eyes as some floats pass by, though. Sometimes the jokes can be a little politically incorrect.

Schreppler said he would like to share his gratitude to the Hummers, the spectators, town officials and Middletown police for helping to keep the Hummers tradition alive since the first informal gathering of friends for a small parade to help cheer up a friend who was ill in 1971.

“Middletown is now a large town and the parade has grown with it, but the town and parade still have the same small-town spirit that the Julian Sheats family displayed when they marched up Broad Street to celebrate the New Year with an ailing Dutch Miller and his family,” said Schreppler.

He joined the fun in 1972 and was placed at the front of the parade because of his signature outfit – a top hat and tails.

“My mom got them out of a trunk in the attic where she stored clothes for Halloween costumes,” Schreppler said. “When I showed up with the hat and tails, Mr. Sheats said I looked like a parade marshal and told me to get up front. The original hat may be a relic of the Spanish American War. It is now retired. I bought the new top hat on South Street in Philly.”

Another change he’s made in his wardrobe continues to roll on: “When I was young I strutted like a drum major. At some point, age caught up to me and I switched to skates.”

Schreppler said the best place to watch the parade is at Sully’s Irish Pub at the Witherspoon near the corner of Broad and Main streets, where he sets up his headquarters.

He said breakfast at Sully’s is always something he looks forward to, along with “seeing the happy spectators gather and then skating down the line-up as the Hummers assemble their floats and costumes. The ingenuity and dedication of these good souls inspire me to keep going.”

Fine parade viewing is also available all along South Broad Street and West Main Street.

Lineup at Cass and Cochran streets

The parade begins at the intersection of South Cass and West Cochran streets, with the lineup starting at about noon. At about 1 p.m., the parade proceeds south on Cass Street to Park Place, then east to Broad Street, north to Main Street, west on Main, south on Scott Street, past Volunteer Hose Company and back to the start.

“I will be handing out trophies after the parade at the starting point,” said Schreppler.

It’s up to the parade participants to decide what to wear or design their float. Usually, entries make fun of public figures and celebrities.

Schreppler said the parade has never been cancelled because of bad weather.

One year, New Year’s Day rudely arrived with bitter cold and blustery winds, forcing the Philadelphia Mummers to postpone their event, but the Middletown revelers kept humming right along.

“We had a Volunteer Hose Company fire truck in our parade. Just one block down Cass Street, the fire whistle blew and the fire truck pulled out of line and sped down Cass Street. We caught up with it on South Broad Street where the crew expertly extinguished a chimney fire at the former home of Claude Fouracre, long-time owner of the then-independent Middletown Transcript,” said Schreppler. “After the parade a Philadelphia TV reporter asked me to explain the difference between the Hummers and the Mummers. I said, ‘The Mummers are more finely festooned but their feathers don’t hold up in the wind as well as our cardboard and duct tape. So the Mummers had to stay home today, while the Hummers put out a house fire without breaking stride.’”