Celebrating the charms of Grays Ferry Crescent, a little known slice of Philly


This weekend fireflies will swarm and a cardboard fort will rise over a little-known Philly park. The festival in South Philly’s Grays Ferry Crescent will showcase the riverfront spot’s history and its recent makeover.

If you’ve never heard of the Grays Ferry Crescent, you’re not alone. Danielle Gray, with the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, said that’s in part because of its location.

“The Grays Ferry Crescent is disconnected from the Center City portion of Schuylkill Banks that most people know and love. So while there are some people down here using it. it’s mostly just people who live in the neighborhood or who have happened to come across it and discovered it on their own,” Gray said.

The park, which opened in June 2012, is the newest section of the Schuylkill Banks Park. Gray said the festival is aimed at getting more people to discover this riverfront oasis while participating in creative, interactive activities.

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“We’ll be working with the community and everyone who comes out to build 400 years of Schuylkill history over the course of 48 hours. We’ll be building a large-scale fort that will be serving as our outpost for the weekend,” she said. “We’ll also be building smaller replicas of famous buildings along the Schuylkill out of cardboard.”

The cardboard models will include replicas of 17th century Swedish and Dutch settlements that once existed near the site of the park.

Savoring a treasure

Nearby Southwest Philadelphia resident Estelle Terrell, out fishing with her sister, is already well acquainted with the park, a place she said she loves.

“There’s benches to sit and enjoy yourself after a nice hot day of fishing, beautiful trees — some you can sit underneath and get out of the sun for a while,” said the retired nurse’s aide. “There’s also a place a little further up where people go skateboarding and riding their bike and push their little babies around in the carriage. It’s just a beautiful place to come.”

This weekend, the place will still be beautiful but it will look very different, said Alex Gilliam of Public Workshop.

“On Sunday, if you were to arrive at 4 o’clock or 6 o’clock in the evening, you will see a mass of structures that are built out of cardboard probably taking up 40, 60 feet,” he said.

Gilliam and other organizers hope the participatory festival will draw even more people to this gem with a view.

“Making is an incredible tool for bringing people together. And so by doing making here, by having all these kinds of making together for people to do — young and old, expert and non, expert, technologist and craftsperson, that we really think this will be a great opportunity to activate this space and to get people exploring it in a different way,” Gilliam said.

Honoring Pennsylvania’s own firefly

Molly Baum is with The Hacktory, an educational center that helps people learn about technology and the arts. In this case, she said, that means fireflies.

“They are robotic fireflies that react to the blinking of each other, they’ll try to synchronize their blinking, but they’ll also react to people blinking lights at them as well,” she said. The electronic fireflies involve glowing LEDs that are equipped with a program that allows them to mimic the behavior of how actual fireflies act in nature.

The group is paying special tribute to the reigon’s most common type, which also happen to the state insect:  photuris pennsylvanica.

To help people figure out how to get to the park, there will also be a bike parade to the park.

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