3 perfectly Philly street festivals kick the season into high gear – May 17-20, 2018

Night Market Philadelphia,

Night Market Philadelphia, one of the first pop-up series in Philly, returns for its eighth season. (Dave Tavani for The Food Trust)

You might not think so with all the rain we’ve been having, but spring is quickly edging into summer. And you know what that means: festivals, street fairs, and block parties. This weekend is chock full of them. Here are our picks. All are free entry, with pay-as-you-go food and drink.

Night Market Philadelphia: Burholme

Cottman and Rising Sun avenues

Thursday May 17, 6 – 10 p.m.

The weekend starts early with the Food Trust’s Night Market Philadelphia, a roving street food festival that’s back for its eighth season of serving up local eats, drink, and music. This year kicks off  at the corner of Cottman and Rising Sun avenues, which will be closed to traffic and lined with food trucks and vendors. Last summer, Burholme was the most-popular Night Market location — perhaps because of growing appreciation for the incredibly diverse Northeast Philly food scene — so be sure to get there early, and be prepared to wait in line.

Make sure to: Check out the headlining performer, Philly-born rapper Freeway. After experiencing kidney failure in 2015, he’s become an advocate for black men’s health. “The Freeway Experience,” as it’s known, will also include previews of his new documentary on kidney disease, health screenings from Jefferson Hospital, and nutrition education from the Food Trust.

And if the food and music aren’t enough to tempt you, WHYY’s PlanPhilly will also there be at there with the WHYY listening booth. You can record stories and memories of the Northeast or observations of Burholme, if the Night Market is your first visit. Your thoughts could end up on the radio!air in the future.

Check out future Night Markets in the Gayborhood, Kensington, and Point Breeze, between now and October.

Getting there: Take the Fox Chase Line to Ryers, or ride the 18. 24, 67, 70, or 77 buses.

Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby and Arts Festival

Trenton Avenue from Norris to Hagert sStreets

Saturday May 19, noon – 6 p.m.

If you’ve ever wanted to see a larger-than-life dragon pedaling a bicycle or a giant mobile brain, you may be in luck at the annual Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby. Wacky people-powered sculptures will parade along a 3-mile figure-eight loop through Kensington and Fishtown, ending with a splash in a mud pit at Trenton Avenue and Dauphin Street.

A shark bike cruises the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby and Arts Festival. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Floats — usually tricked-out bicycles — are entirely human-propelled. Participants can’t use motors, electricity, pushing, pulling, or walking, but have to keep up a pace of at least 3 mph. Expect a little chaos. Awards for best breakdown; best costume; best engineering; and best and worst puns, among others. Food trucks and vendors will be selling all manner of comestible, art and craft.

Make sure to: Check out the map and position yourself accordingly, as it can be hard to see past the crowds. Your best bet is probably to take in the race before you go see the vendors.

Getting there: Parking is limited. Take the Market-Frankford line to Berks, or ride the 3, 5, or 25 buses.

South Ninth Street Italian Market Festival

Ninth Street and Washington Avenue

Saturday May 19 – Sunday May 20, all day long

If you didn’t see anyone try to climb a Crisco-ed utility pole after the Eagles won the Superbowl, but you really, really wanted to, the Italian Market Festival has you covered.

Frank Longo nears the top of the pole in the 1993 competition at the Italian Market Festival. (Photo provided)

Known in Italian as Albero Della Cuccagna, grease pole climbing is one of the festival’s most outlandish offerings. On  Saturday and Sunday, starting at noon, teams will try to summit a 30-foot pole slathered in lard to reach prizes at the top. You can even sign up yourself.

If that thought makes your stomach churn, the festival also features a halfball tournament, vendors, and the cornucopia of tasty foods the Italian Market is famous for.

Make sure to: Observe the Procession of Saints and the Blessing of the Market. In this nearly 100-year-old tradition, Catholic religious statues are paraded down the street from St. Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi Church to St. Paul Catholic Church, while spectators pin money to the saints as a gesture of prayer and devotion. Starts Saturday at 11 a.m.

Getting there: Parking is limited. Take the Broad Street Line to Ellsworth-Federal, or the 4, 27, or 32 buses down Broad Street and walk.


This article is part of a new effort recommending things to do in the Philly region.  Tell us what you think.

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