Blame it on the frigid temperatures, the ever-changing route, or maybe a general decline in interest, but the crowds for the 2018 Mummers Parade mostly stayed home.
At 10:30 a.m., only the hardiest of fans — most bundled up with heavy coats, gloves, hats and scarves — were out cheering on the groups in the Comics Division as they marched from City Hall down Broad Street with "feels like" temperatures that only reached into the single digits. There were plenty of empty seats at City Hall and in front of the Union League, where benches had been set up.
The street gave clues of the cold, too: At the staging area along Market Street, discarded hand warmers and their wrappers lined the gutters along with confetti, empty beer cans, the occasional lost glove, and spots of (frozen) spilled hot chocolate and spit.
Inside the Kimmel Center, one of the designated warming centers, it was a different story, as parents chased toddlers around in the warmth, and the hot chocolate flowed.
Karsten and Catherine Roberts and their daughter, Porter, 6, recently moved to South Philadelphia from San Francisco and decided to watch the parade from the Kimmel Center.
"Because it's 10 degrees outside," said Karsten Roberts.
The center offered a "family friendly" way, they said, to catch the parade.
"We wanted to get integrated into Philadelphia life, and this seemed a very important part of it," said Catherine Roberts. "All kids love a parade, right?"
B.J. Collings, 39, and Bill Shallock, 41, marched with the Froggy Carr brigade before heading into the Kimmel dressed in layers.
The lack of crowds, which they partially blamed on the city's changing the routes and the cold, was a morale-killer, they said.
"When it's a nice year, the crowds come out in droves," Shallock said.
Frank Collision, 71, of Yardley, came with his wife, Linda, 68, to mark the New Year: "We decided to make a day of it," he said.
The two, who are members of the Academy of Music and came to eat brunch at the Kimmel, watched from inside. He planned to poke his head out, but Linda was adamant about staying inside.
"I didn't even want to walk the two blocks," she said.
Crowds along Broad Street, where the stench of cigars filled the air, picked up before noon. Most everyone carried a coffee-type cup with a steaming beverage.
At the Starbucks at 16th and Market Streets, Naima Passe, 23, of North Philadelphia, was trying to find thermal clothing for her younger brothers. She had ventured into Center City unaware of the parade or that most stores were closed.
"I'm not 100 percent sure what [the parade] is about," said Passe. She questioned why it was still going on considering the parade's history regarding race, she said.
"And they are also carrying signs supporting Trump," she said. "It's not for me."
As for the weather, Passe planned to use Uber to avoid the cold and head off to shop, she said.
Inside the Rothman Institute warming tent in Dilworth Park, Michael McLaughlin, 50, and his fiance, Angelica Gutierrez, 31, both of Media, had braved the cold for a while before taking refuge — and found a way to beat the weather and get the best seats in the house. As they waited for their lunch, they had a perfect view of the skaters on the ice rink and the parade on a nearby television.
The two had locked in their hotel reservations in the spring. "We weren't anticipating the weather," McLaughlin said.
For Gutierrez, originally from Peru, it was her first Mummers Parade. McLaughlin had been to a number of past parades and put Monday's attendance at about one-third of previous crowds.
"It's a shame. You are at the mercy of Mother Nature on this," he said.
In one of the warming buses set up for the Mummers, Jack Christy, 80, a banjo player with Duffy String Band for 42 years, couldn't recall a colder parade.
"It's hard for the horns, because they freeze up," he said. "Doesn't bother us banjo players, but it is a little cold on the fingers."
Christy, who retired as a firefighter after 37 years, hoped the band would march until they reached the fire station at Broad and South Street, but he knew that would depend on the crowds.