Mummery is in Thomas D’Amore’s blood.
His father was a Mummer.
So were his two brothers.
And D’Amore, 28, has been one since he was 11 years old.
This year, he brought home a title that shows his dedication to the tradition, and to the Bridesburg-based Joseph A. Ferko String Band: First Prize Captain of the 2017 Mummers Parade String Band Division.
D’Amore, a South Philly native and Drexel Hill resident, beat out 15 other captains in the String Band Division for the coveted prize.
Formed in 1922, the Ferko String Band has the most successful record of a string band at the Mummers Parade, according to its website. The organization has placed in the top five 84 out of 90 parades.
“It meant a lot to me from a historical standpoint to say I now share something with Joseph Ferko,” D’Amore said.
His first prize win uniquely connects him to the organization’s founder, Joseph A. Ferko — both D’Amore and Ferko served as captain for both the Ferko and Fralinger String Bands, and they both won the first prize captain award.
“It’s a good thing for the tradition, and it was also a lot of fun to do,” D’Amore said.
However, first prize isn’t a new achievement for the young captain. Before joining the Ferko String Band four years ago, D’Amore enjoyed a very successful captain stint with the Fralinger String Band, winning the top prize four times in 13 years.
“He has a proven track record, and just a presence about him that the men of the organization can stand behind,” John Simon, Ferko’s music director of 13 years, said about D’Amore’s election to captain after being with the Ferko organization for just a few years.
“He’s just a good guy, very respectful and understands the hobby, Simon said. “People not just in our organization, but all organizations respect what he’s done at such a young age. It’s pretty impressive.”
The 100-plus members of Ferko vote on a captain every year, and at the end of January 2016, they elected D’Amore to lead the club and be what he describes as the “figurehead” of the organization.
“Hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to hold on to this role for another year,” D’Amore said.
Both D’Amore and Simon were two of four people on a committee that planned Ferko’s performance on New Year’s Day, which paid homage to Native American culture with the theme “We Stand As One.”
Ferko had not performed a Native American theme since 1971, and, according to Simon, it is generally a widely popular theme for string bands.
“It was something that we thought should be honored,” Simon said. “With all the stuff happening with Standing Rock, we thought it was a good time to honor the heritage in a way that we felt we could.”
The band involved consultants in the planning process to make sure they were doing things in the right way without offending anyone, as ‘cultural insensitivity’ has become a large topic of conversation regarding the Mummers Parade over the years.
“The theme has a lot of energy, a lot of passion. It’s a really rich culture and heritage, and we really learned a lot about it,” Simon said.
In November, the band presented its entire performance to the City of Philadelphia to ensure that, according to Simon: “what we were doing, they were okay with.”
“It was accurate and professionally done,” Simon said.
After their performance at 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard on New Year’s Day, the members of the Ferko String Band made their way back to their clubhouse in Bridesburg as they awaited the judge’s scores.
Ferko’s performance came in fifth out of 16 string bands.
“The amount of time and effort that goes into this by individual members, is really nothing short of a full-time job,” D’Amore said.
Throughout the year, members are required to attend 60 percent of events, as well as practices on Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings after work hours.
And although the members put in enough hours to seem like they’re working a full-time job, being a part of the Ferko String Band is a family tradition and a hobby.
“It’s like a big brotherhood and we all treat each other that way.” Simon said.
With the parade behind them, it’s time to start planning and practicing for next year.
“Now that it’s January 4, we’re getting ready to start all over again for next year’s performance,” D’Amore said. “It’s right back to work.” SPR
To learn more about Ferko String Band, visit their Facebook page at “Ferko String Band.”