Friends of Gorgas Park to celebrate 15th anniversary (and more) at ‘Party in the Park’

Want to party like a ‘Rox-star’? Get your credit card ready, because Friends of Gorgas Park is hosting a Party in the Park, and they’re looking to celebrate in serious style.

The debut event, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m., will serve as fundraiser for the historic 20-acre park located in the heart of Roxborough on Ridge Avenue.

The party will feature hors d’oeuvres, beer, wine and casual strolls through the parks’ prize-winning gardens.

Music will be provided by the Hot House Canaries, a jazz-blues ensemble that organizers believe will lend to the party’s stylish atmosphere.

In addition, a silent auction will feature offerings from several local businesses, including memberships to Philadelphia Woodworks on Umbria Street and classes at Yoga on the Ridge.

“It’s going to be a blast for everyone who attends,” said John Boyce, president of FGP.

A dual celebration

However, the Party in the Park is more than a fundraiser. It’s also a birthday party writ large for the FGP, which will celebrate its 15th anniversary.

FGP, an advocacy group for the park, traces its origins to 1997, when a group of neighbors banded together to reclaim the park for the community after a period of decline.

“A bunch of neighbors wrote a grant,” Boyce recalled, “and things started to happen.”

Some $500,000 in capital improvements took place between 1997 and 2004, much of which was secured by then Fourth District Councilman Michael Nutter. Improvements were made to the park’s steps and playground, and a new sign was installed.

In addition, a concert series was started — Boyce noted it is still going strong in its 13th season — and a new, state-of-the-art gazebo was installed.

Boyce said that current District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. “picked up where Nutter left off,” and was instrumental in the allocation of funding for new benches and enhancements to water and drainage systems in the park.

Theme unveiling

The party will also unveil three proposals by Philadelphia University students, each of whom designed a “green vision” for the park in the 21st century.

“The party is about the past, present, and future,” said Boyce, conceding that without a clear vision, “there is no future.”

Gorgas Park was originally dedicated in 1895, after Susan Gorgas gave five acres of land on the west side of Ridge Avenue, north of Hermitage Street, to the City of Philadelphia for a public park for the free use of the people of Philadelphia, according to the FGP website.

The new designs will incorporate the latest and greatest in green design into Gorgas Park, featuring various streetscapes that include walkways, cisterns and dedicated recreation areas.

The de-graying of Roxborough

Boyce noted that these design updates will not only be good for the park; they will also reinforce the increasingly family-friendly nature of Roxborough.

Prior to the 2010 Census, Boyce said that Roxborough was demographically “graying.”

Since then, statistics indicate that the number of families within a five-mile radius of the park is equivalent to those of neighboring communities in Montgomery County, which is a benefit to the neighborhood, city and especially to local schools.

It’s a dynamic period for what some term as “Roxborough’s Central Park.”

“It used to be known as ‘Pill Hill,'” said Boyce. “Now, it’s become the ‘Jewel of Roxborough.'”

Tickets for this all-inclusive event are $40 per person. For more information, call (610) 585-4610 or visit gorgaspark.com.

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