Doilies, beer cases and Nan's bras disguise mummers at St. John's parade
The Christmas tradition lives on as residents plaster selves in lace and underwear
Bev Skehans came out to Saturday's annual Mummers Parade in St. John's to make new friends, but she never imagined she'd meet another Bev Skanes.
The two women with the same name — at least, in pronunciation — bumped into each other over their matching ugly sticks, and erupted in laughter when they realized they had more in common than their costumes.
"What are the chances?" Skanes chuckled from behind a doily and glowing sunglasses.
It was Skehans' inaugural parade. After 35 years in the military, she's finally retired and able to enjoy homegrown traditions, she said.
It's whimsical encounters like these that fuel the festivities, said organizer Ryan Davis.
"It's about bringing community together. It's about social bonding. It's about taking time out of your day to connect with people in your neighbourhood," Davis said amid hundreds clamouring for costumes at the pre-parade rig-up in Bishop Abraham Elementary's gym.
Donated clothes, masks and pillows for traditional bum-stuffing were laid out for the taking.
"There's a bit of magic that happens.… On this one day everyone is just a maggoty old mummer, and we can all come together and have a great time," Davis said.
Nobody seems to personify the Mummers Parade spirit more than Bobby Bessey, who hasn't missed a parade since its first iteration nine years ago.
Today her friend from Japan, Reiko Maruyama, is getting a taste of Newfoundland with her Christmas tree-themed outfit.
Bessey has brought Michael Pinksen since he was just a baby — this year, he's old enough to make his own ugly stick, a dreadlocked tribute to American rapper Lil Pump.
Bessey even wears a token for her late grandmother, in the form of her nan's old nightgown. But she's wearing her own bra today, she laughs.
"Basically if we see underwear popping up over the year we poke it away, and pull it out at the end of the year for this festival," she said.
Her advice for novice mummers? "You can't wear enough underwear. Everywhere, wherever you can put it."
Virginia Berry, who calls herself a chronic costume enthusiast, decided even the baby carriage could use a getup.
"I feel like Nan's bra is signature mummering, so I figured the stroller might need a nan's bra," she laughs, taping the two-metre monstrosity together.
"It's a 94 HHHHH size."
Not to be outdone, Wally Upward made his own ribbon-reggae headpiece, even though he's not entirely clear on where the "ribbon fool" tradition comes from.
"I grew up in Green Bay, and that was a tradition we had when I was young," Upward said, peering out from behind a mess of ribbons, bells and Mardi Gras necklaces.
"It's sort of nice just to come back and not just relive, but revive it."