Hundreds of people crowded the 6400 block of Ogontz Ave. in West Oak Lane on Saturday for the annual “Taking It to the Streets” festival.
The day kicked off with an hour-long parade from Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ’s old location at 7800 Ogontz Ave.
At the festival site on the church’s new grounds, participants enjoyed free food, gospel music, games and a wealth of information from various booths.
“It’s just a good ole fashioned party combined with educational services,” explained state Rep. Dwight Evans whose office collaborated with the Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ to host the 11th annual event.
The event’s roots
The Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ, founded 44 years ago, has more than 3,000 members from across the city.
Deacon Joseph Cann Sr. said church officials decided, in 2000, to host a yearly community event to “teach children old fashioned games and about God.”
“When we first started this festival we didn’t have the booths, the food or as many games,” he explained. “Now, everything is free.”
While the church received small donations from residents and local businesses in years past, they did not do so for Saturday’s festival.
Cann wasn’t fazed by that.
“This year we didn’t get one donation. We share the responsibility [for making the event happen] with Evans,” he said. “It’s a community thing.”
At the event, Evans said the church plays a fundamental role in community-building.
“This church is very important in my district. I find it important to work with this group in order to get things done in the community,” said Evans, whose 203rd Legislative District covers West Oak Lane and slices of neighboring communities. “This church does a lot for this community as well. They have a lot of youth activities and programs such as feeding the homeless.”
As for the event itself, gospel music was booming and the barbecue grills were sizzling.
Children enjoyed pick-up basketball games, bouncy-house carnival games and arts-and-crafts offerings.
Many participants brought their entire family for the day of activities. They included Deborah McCutcheon, whose daughter is a member of the church.
“I think I have only missed one festival in 11 years,” she said. “It’s really nice here and it gives children something to do and a way to learn about God.”