Any mummers 'lowed online? 2020 Mummers Festival goes virtual

The 2019 Mummers parade saw thousands of people flood the streets. This year the pandemic is pushing celebrations online.

Organizers say people outside the province are accessing events

The 2019 mummers parade saw thousands of people flood the streets. This year the pandemic is pushing celebrations online. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Mummers might already wear masks, but they still have to abide by other COVID-19 restrictions. 

Having thousands of people disguised in doilies stroll down the streets of St. John's just doesn't jive with a recommendation from provincial health officials to go mummering only with close contacts this year. 

The annual mummers parade is moving online, along with most of the regular festival events leading up to it.

"Everything that we do, typically, is back. It's just in a digital platform," said Mummers Festival executive director Lynn McShane.

No parade in pandemic

A typical parade day starts with a "rig up," where people pick through tables of clothes to find a costume. This year, starting at 1:30 p.m. NT on Dec 12, organizers will be on Facebook Live offering up tips and ideas for what to wear.

The parade itself will be replaced by a video of people in their mummering best. The festival is asking anyone who wants to be in it to dress up, record themselves, and send in a snippet by Dec 1.

The parade day stream will end with a virtual concert.

Mummers Festival executive director Lynn McShane says holding the festival online will allow people from around the world to take part. (Katie Breen/CBC)

McShane said hosting most of the festival on the internet opens up possibilities for who can take part. 

"People who are not residents of Newfoundland and Labrador are just loving the opportunity to be able to join in from afar," she said. 

There are presentations, panel discussions and crafting lessons planned in the two weeks ahead of the parade.

All the events and most of the required supplies are free, but donations are encouraged.

Bring your own boot

"The thing with mummering is eventually you take off your mask, so in terms of this year and COVID, I don't know if it offers much protection," Ryan Davis said in an interview ahead of his online ugly stick workshop Saturday. 

In past years, he's taught people how to put the instrument together in person.

Festival volunteers predrilled the sticks and punched holes in bottle caps to ease at-home assembly. 

Ryan Davis teaches a virtual class on how to build your own ugly stick on Saturday. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Participants could register and pick up a kit in St. John's containing all the ugly stick essentials at no charge — they just needed to have an old boot or sneaker for the bottom.

Davis said they're not an essential mummering accessory, but they do amplify the experience.

"It's actually great if you want to go mummering because you don't want to take your nice guitar or your fancy instrument," Davis said.

"This is something you can beat up and beat around, so in that way, it's great for mummering."

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