Hundreds of local families descended on Gorgas Park for its annual Harvest Festival on Sunday, rescheduled from last weekend due to rain. The youngsters, parents, dogs and vendors had an unusually balmy October day, and many kids added fanciful face paint to their festive orange-and-black wardrobes.
Joanne Shannon paused near the park entrance on Ridge Avenue with her placid bulldog, Gertrude, and her daughter, Megan Gorman, whose first child, 6-week-old Finbar, dozed in a stroller. Shannon is a happy grandmother, living on the same Wissahickon block as Gorman and her husband.
Gorman is glad to welcome autumn.
“It’s my favorite time of year,” she said, partly because of the changing leaves, and partly because neighbors reconnect while out walking, after a long season of keeping indoors to dodge the summer heat.
For Gertrude, summer means sailboat-rides in Longport (in her doggie life-preserver), but now that cooler weather has arrived, she concerns herself mostly with neighborhood walks and attempting to kiss the baby.
Shannon has been glad to see a lot of families come into her neighborhood – for her, the best part of the season is welcoming tons of Trick-or-Treaters. While Finbar is admittedly a little young for the festivities, Gorman is considering his Halloween garb – it’s between a hand-me-down onesie with ghosts and pumpkins on it or a tiny Smurf get-up.
Pumpkins, caramel apples and funnel cakes
Nearby, a steady line of festival-goers bought French fries, fried pickles and Oreos, peirogies and more from a large, rumbling food truck. Parents gingerly tore bits from fresh sugared funnel cakes to share with little ones.
Perhaps best enjoyed before the funnel cake, tomato pie and caramel apples, a couple of jumping castles crowned the park’s hill, and a strong breeze blew billows of smoke over the crowd from the barbecue at the other end. Music blared over the teeming autumn-themed activities.
“I’m the Pumpkin-Patch Master,” said Jen Disque, presiding over two giant cardboard bins of small pumpkins and a steady crowd of youngsters who picked their own pumpkins for painting at nearby tables.
“That’s a great pumpkin,” she praised the kids’ choices, adding “I’m going to give it a pumpkin bath,” as she scrubbed off the dirt of the field with a damp paper towel at record speed. Kids repaired to the painting station to kneel on folding chairs for the total Halloween bliss of obscuring the pumpkins’ orange skin with globby, colorful brushstrokes.
A wide variety of vendors lined the Ridge Avenue side of the park and inner paths, and children tossed beanbags and quarters in an assortment of games. Patient dogs followed stroller armadas and kids in white karate gear, miraculously unscathed by the painting, darted through the crowd.
Inside a small loop of fencing, three slightly testy sheep and one sleepy brown-patched calf with luxuriant white eyelashes bore legions of curious hands, snatching bites of hay from their crackling carpet.
The same dusty fragrance dominated a little further up the hill, as several families and one barking corgi entered a large ring of straw bales to stuff their own scarecrows.
Participants chose their scarecrows’ outfits from a pile of old clothes on one side and began with a simple wooden frame. Moms dealt with buttons, dads stuffed impressive fist-fulls of hay, and kids busied themselves with drawing faces on the fabric provided for the scarecrows’ heads (though at least one little boy, finding the crackling girth of the finished scarecrow irresistible, turned it into a punching bag).
Erick Crabill of Master Street and his 14-year-old son, Erick Jr., were working on their first-ever scarecrow, along with 17-year-old friend Robbie Esbensen. Erick Sr. stuffed the head to maximum size and Esbensen finished off the right arm. They said the scarecrow would ride home comfortably in the back of the family van.
Erick Jr. explained that last year, he had gone Trick-or-Treating as a girl, wearing a dress.
What kind of dress was it?
“I don’t know!” he said, and then announced that this year, he’d go as a bat.
Esbensen, for his part, said that he has no plans to abandon Trick-or-Treating as yet.
“You’re never too old to go Trick-or-Treating,” he declared.
The Harvest Festival was organized by the Friends of Gorgas Park and other sponsors.