East Falls Block Party a big hit for families on race day

East Falls was going to throw a party today no matter what.

According to Jim Williamson, owner of Slices Pizza, January’s cancellation of the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship didn’t stall the East Falls Development Corporation’s plans to host a family friendly event.

“For a while,” said Williamson, also a member of the EFDC, “we didn’t know if there would be a bike race or not.” This became the event’s catchphrase – “Bike Race – Or Not!” – until Parx Casino agreed to sponsor the 2013 Philly Cycling Classic.

An afternoon rush 

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Attendance was light during the women’s race today, but after the first hour of the men’s competition, the intersection of Kelly Drive and Midvale Avenue was packed with families holding towels, chairs, coolers and little bicycles.

Children ran along the sidewalk, but instead of stopping to cheer for the passing cyclists, they gathered around colorful tents offering games, raffle tickets, balloon animals, sand art, and, at the end of the row, two-year-old Miles Brown’s favorite attraction: a Sesame Street-themed Moon Bounce. At the opposite end of the carnival stretch, age groups competed in “Trike Races” near the top of every hour. The Kid’s Carnival was planned and produced by Creative Minds Day Care Development Center.

Trolley tour addition 

Mimi Armstrong of the EFDC said she was blown away by the execution of the Kid’s Carnival and happy with the event overall. She sat behind the EDFC’s booth, where spectators could pay a dollar for a blue wristband that gave them an all-day pass for the Trolley Bus.

The Trolley Bus – also a new feature – took passengers on a 15-minute-loop up Midvale, around Vaux Street and Queen Lane, and down Conrad Street and Scotts Lane before finishing on Ridge Avenue. Jim Williamson acted as an unofficial tour guide, also encouraging pedestrians along the route to take a free ride downhill to the party before paying a buck to get back up the hill. The trolley stopped at six residential and business locations, including Laxmi’s Indian Grille and Cranky Joe’s, before pulling in front of the Philadelphia Rock Gym at 3500 Scotts Lane. Inside, belayers helped kids and adults in and out of harnesses at a discounted rate all day.

Science experiments, funnel cakes and live music

Behind her, Wondergy held “Cool Science” demonstrations throughout the day. Kids learned about liquid nitrogen by participating in misty, ear-poppingly loud experiments. Across from Wondergy, lines formed for funnel cakes and water ice, and hungry eaters crowded in front of the “Dapper Dog” hot dog food cart. Diva Dollz and the Deb Callahan band provided live music.

When asked about her favorite part of the day, East Falls resident Rebecca Brown didn’t hesitate: it was the events “along the road, just for the kids.” She and her husband Laurence have lived in the neighborhood and visited the Block Party for the past six years, but today they saw it through the eyes of their two-year-old son Miles. “He loved bouncing,” Rebecca said.

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