East Falls Bike Race Block Party adds neighborhood trolley loop, drops beer garden

Not content to let Manayunk have all the fun, the East Falls Development Corporation is keeping the bike race tradition alive with its annual Bike Race Block Party on Sunday.

The EFDC will host the family-friendly event, which will feature food trucks and offerings from local eateries, bands, children’s tricycle races, and a kids’ carnival. 

The block party will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Midvale Avenue near Kelly Drive in East Falls.

In addition to the race-side offerings, a trolley bus will be available in East Falls throughout race day beginning at Ridge and Midvale avenues, continuing up the hill into the neighborhood’s back business district, where several local pubs and restaurants are offering sponsored stops.

The trolley will continue to the Philadelphia Rock Gym, located on Scotts Lane, which will feature race-day discounts on climbing activities for kids.

The trolley wristband is $1, and includes unlimited rides all day and acts as a coupon at designated businesses on race day. Children 12 and under ride for free.

Trolleys, trike rides, a moon bounce and more 

The first East Falls Bike Race Block Party was almost 10 years ago and was the brainchild of Gina Snyder, executive director of the East Falls Development Corporation.

She had just moved to the city and saw an opportunity for business promotion and development in the neighborhood’s scenic vantage point of the race, with the Schuylkill River rolling by in the background.

“I just couldn’t believe that our neighborhood had this great view and wasn’t doing anything,” she told NewsWorks in 2011. So good was the view that the EFDC intended to host the Block Party in 2013, regardless of whether or not the race was actually held.

Originally billed as the “Bike Race – or Not! – Block Party,” the EFDC was able to drop the interpolation with the announcement of the Park Casino Philly Cycling Classic, replacing the canceled Philadelphia International Championship race.

Despite the new name, many of the features are the same. Last year began a tradition of younger riders competing in tricycle races. That will continue this year, and will be expanded to include a veritable carnival for kids, including a moon bounce and other kid-friendly activities.

New this year is the trolley that will whisk visitors up Midvale Avenue from the riverside race route.

According to Snyder, the germ of the idea began at an EFDC planning committee meeting, when a member pitched the idea of having pedicabs to transport guests up the hill.

“It went from being a fanciful idea to a practical one,” said Snyder, who said that the trolley ride will allow for visitors to patronize local businesses. In addition, she recognized that the return trip up the hill will seem much less daunting for guests when escorted via motorized coach.

No beer garden this year 

While some offerings are new and others are expanded, one attraction of previous bike races that will not be making a return in 2013 is the race-side beer garden. Instead, visitors will be directed to local pubs.

Asked about the reason behind this, Snyder said that the EFDC wanted to promote local business. At the same time, she said that the bureaucratic realities of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board proved to be a disincentive to organizers of the Block Party.

However, despite this, she expects that with favorable weather and strong public awareness of the race, the Block Party will match last year’s attendance figures of approximately 5,000 guests.

One group urging attendance is the East Falls Community Council, whose president, Barnaby Wittels, publicly promoted the event in his upcoming monthly column in The Fallser.

“We’re thrilled the race is back on,” said Wittels in an interview, “and we fully support the EFDC in its endeavors.”

With EFCC support and sponsorship from what Snyder approximated as 20 local businesses, the EFDC’s Bike Race Block Party is poised for strong attendance.

“We’re hoping that the word gets out,” she said.

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