Organizers of the third annual Mifflin School Community Festival persevered on Saturday morning in the face of inhospitable weather and low community turnout, moving the day’s programming inside to the auditorium and setting up the arts-and-crafts marketplace in a nearby hallway.
Alex Keating, a member of the Friends of Mifflin School Committee, said the elements presented a particularly formidable challenge for community organizations holding neighborhood events.
“Often, families that otherwise would be happy to show their support for an event like this will choose to stay home on a cold and rainy day,” he said. “I think for many people, all the logistics involved with driving seem a bit too much to take on when the trip in question is one that would otherwise be made by foot.”
The Conrad Street scene
Shortly before 12:30 p.m., more than 30 children and their adult companions gathered in the auditorium in anticipation of a visit from the Philadelphia Zoo on Wheels.
This represents a sharp downturn from attendance in past years. Both Keating and Principal Leslie Mason attributed the drop wholly to the inclement weather.
While Mifflin School has seen some decrease in enrollment in recent years, it remains competitive with area charter schools and has had the opportunity to welcome several students transferring from the now-closed St. Bridget School.
“[Mifflin] is a local, traditional, public school in a great neighborhood,” said state Rep. Pam DeLissio. “I hope today’s festival provides area residents with the opportunity to appreciate what a great local resource a school like this truly is.”
Keating said that he has observed a sharp increase over the last five years in the number of families with young children in East Falls.
“I think there is a growing population that will soon be very interested in what Mifflin has to offer,” he said.
Planning for the Community Festival, in conjunction with the East Falls Community Council, began following the end of the summer break.
Organizers decided to focus less on the usual raffle and other contests in order to make room for more performers this year.
To that end, the festival included a performance by the Merge Dance Company, readings by Philadelphia Free Library storytellers, school tours and an arts-and-crafts marketplace.
Local artisan businesses participating in the marketplace were candlemaker Tom Hawbrich, Kristin Weight of Mountain Paper, glass and fiber artist Kate Ohara, Matthew Charles of Do It Now T-Shirts, photographer Ashley LaBonde of Wide Eyed Studios and East Falls Glassworks.
The Friends of Mifflin Committee consists of parents, business leaders, and community members, and currently numbers around 20 regular members.
Planning is now underway for a Martin Luther King service day on which volunteers will help repaint classrooms, while the Friends of Mifflin will additionally prep and prime the classrooms for painting.