Manayunk brings Olympic spirit to Pretzel Park in a fierce game of tug of war

While the 2012 Olympic Games played out across the pond on Monday night, Manayunk showcased the athletic abilities of its retailers with a friendly tug of war competition and barbecue.


The green space at the corner of Cotton and Cresson streets was abuzz Monday evening, with local retailers and workers turning out in force at Pretzel Park for the area’s first annual Tug of War BBQ. Participants and spectators began filling the park well before the start of the games at 6 p.m., snacking on soft pretzels and barbecue foods, and applying bug spray in advance of the Olympics-inspired competition.

The event was the brainchild of Manayunk Development Corporation Executive Director Jane Lipton, who was motivated to create the competition after hearing a recent radio broadcast about five sports that are no longer included in the Olympic games. Lipton was inspired by the mention of tug of war, an old overnight camp favorite of hers, and decided to channel the game into a community-building event.

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Taking into account the accessibility of the game—one that, as she describes, “anyone can play”—and the convivial atmosphere that comes with friendly competition, she decided to bring the sport to Manayunk.

The response from local businesses was overwhelmingly positive; seven teams of ten were assembled from the ranks of Manayunk shops, organizations and restaurants, and several additional teams formed at the event. Showing their competitive stripes, Jake’s and Cooper’s Wine Bar had enough interested workers to field two teams.

The competition was lighthearted but fierce. Alison Newitt of North Light Community Center joked that she was nervous about her team’s upcoming match against the staff of Cooper’s Wine Bar.

Even those not engaging in the competition came out to support their coworkers and friends, cheering on their Main Street neighbors. Owen and Elizabeth Paradiso, of Sweet Elizabeth’s Bakery, came to root for their favorite restaurants, bringing along cupcakes as a sweet treat for the competitors and spectators alike. Owen Paradiso echoed the resounding desire to “support the community for the evening” and bring businesses together for a fun event.

Julie Sabella, owner of The Wall Cycling Studio, whose team won second place in the tug of war, said the event was “different and fun, and something that hadn’t been done before.”

Alicia Dietzmann of the Manayunk Development Corporation explained the rules of the competition and the bracket: teams had the option to pay an entrance fee, with the opportunity to win prizes of $190 for a first-place finish or $60 for the second-place slot, or to enter just for fun. Winnie’s Warriors, of Winnie’s LeBus, edged out the competition for their ultimate victory and Main Street bragging rights.

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