It all started in 1959 when, after taking First Prize in a special mention category, a Brigade led by their now legendary Hall of Fame Captain Bill Isaacs was accepted into the Fancy Brigade Division of the Mummers Parade. The name chosen for this new Brigade was “Downtowners". The Brigade's first 3 years of competition failed to produce a top 10 showing. Although not achieving success in the early years, an attitude and character was forming which would be the foundation of one of the most innovative and successful Brigades on Broad Street.
The Downtowners won their first championship in 1964 with "Coronation". The Brigade repeated as champions in 1965 with "Genghis Khan and the Mongols". After a 9th place finish in 1966, the Brigade won two more back to back championships in 1967 and 1968 with "Trooping the Colors" and "Tomahawk to Peacepipe". After only nine years of existence the Downtowners had won 4 First Prizes and became, in the words of Captain Bill Isaacs, "the ones to beat".
The Downtowners continued to dominate in the 70's, winning Championships in 1971 and 1973, then again in 1979. In 1981 and 1984, the Brigade achieved two more First Prize finishes. Within a 20 year span, the Downtowners had achieved 9 First Prize finishes; a remarkable achievement! The Downtowners are the only Brigade to win multiple championships in the 60's, 70's and 80's.
The Downtowners have gained a reputation not only for winning, but for innovation as well. The Brigade was the first to use floats in their presentations. Our presentations became known for precision and professionalism. During the 1967 parade at Broad and Locust, our Captain, Bill Isaacs lost his voice. The Brigade had been drilled and cued by voice commands. Instead, we were cued by a whistle at City Hall. The members had been drilled so thoroughly that the change had no effect. Without so much as a practice run, the Downtowners won First Prize!
The Downtowners have been successful with every type of drill imaginable. In the 60's and 70's the Brigade was known for it's military style drills. However, after a disappointing finish in 1978, the Brigade took a new direction and won First Prize with a theme called "Close Encounters of the Fantasy Kind", a performance that is still talked about to this day. The Downtowners innovative style has led them to play steel drums, march out of a giant drum, form a bell choir, bring a forest to life and launch jet planes from the deck of an Air Craft Carrier. Also featured through the years were a Giant Elephant, an elevating Space Ship, Pirate and Viking ships, and an entire Western Town, complete with a Church, Saloon and a place to get a haircut and a shave. Of late, we have become innovators in the design and building and use of huge mechanically animated “props”, such as 1998’s Elephant and our Millennium presentation of a huge flying “Demon”
While the past is something we can all take pride in, our future is even brighter! Many Brigades, including the Downtowners, have experienced problems due to escalating costs driven by increased competition. It can demand more than $150,000.00 for a Brigade of our size to put a first class presentation on the street! In spite of this, the Downtowners have continued to grow to be one of the largest and most successful marching brigades. We look forward to representing the best of our South Philadelphia tradition for years to come.
Many Future Happy New Years To All!!!
Through the years, many members have contributed to the success of our Brigade. Some have made a lasting mark. In recognition of their long time dedicated service and extraordinary contributions to our organization, the following members have been honored with election into the Downtowners Fancy Brigade “HALL OF FAME”