PIFA attendance: In a word, magnifique

After the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts swept through the city in April, many people are left asking, “What just happened?”

The numbers are now starting to trickle out.

An estimated 177,000 people walked through the Kimmel Center for one reason or another during the month.

There are three stages in the center. The smallest one, Innovation Studio, featured one of the less reverent offerings.

Seth Rozin of Interact Theater wrote a musical about a Parisian vaudeville artist who performed with his own flatulence. Based on a real person, “A Passing Wind” played 14 times at the Kimmel Center’s small stage, filling 80 percent of the seats.

“I was overhearing a lot of their conversations, which seemed to indicate they were new to the venue and experiencing it for the first time,” said Rozin. “They weren’t Kimmel regulars.”

The street fair on Broad Street exceeded all expectations. The day-long event closed Broad Street on a sunny Saturday, with an evening finale by aerial acrobats Transe Express. It was meant to draw 50,000 people; 195,000 showed up.

“Literally, the moment the street fair started at 11, we got all these people,” said executive director Ed Cambron. “They just appeared, and it continued to grow all day. When Transe Express did their concluding performance, you couldn’t walk. The street was just jammed from 15th and 13th on Spruce and two blocks in each direction on Broad. It was pretty cool.”

The bottlenecking of so many people caused some unexpected crowd-control problems.

PIFA was funded entirely by a $10 million gift from now-deceased philanthropist Leonore Annenberg. If a second festival happens in 2013, Cambron said it will depend on corporate fundraising.

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