A new outdoor festival is coming to West Oak Lane next summer. The Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation (OARC) is teaming up with the Food Trust to bring Night Market to the neighborhood’s commercial corridor. The celebrated street fair, now entering its fourth year, will take place on Thursday, June 20, 2013 along Ogontz Avenue.
OARC intends to whet appetites with more than just eclectic food vendors. Jack Kitchen, OARC’s president and chief financial officer, says the West Oak Lane version of Night Market will include a music component which could expand the four-hour evening affair into a weekend-long festival.
“We’re working on a variation of the Jazz Festival to come back,” he stated. “I think the Night Market gives us a nice entry back into that venue.”
Planning for both Night Market and any music tie-in is still very much in the early stages. Kitchen said OARC is exploring options on what an adaptation of its signature music festival could be. Even if the organization is able to spread the food, music and fun over the course of an entire weekend, Kitchen noted that OARC does not expect to bring back a full-fledged West Oak Lane Jazz Festival next year.
This year, the organization did not apply for state funding and subsequently canceled the event.
Filling the Jazz festival gap
Night Market attracts thousands of people from other parts of the city into each of its host neighborhoods – often for the first time. Kitchen says he expects that kind of exposure to elicit a similar public response to West Oak Lane as what was reaped from the Jazz festival’s eight year run.
Prior to the annual music event, the neighborhood had little draw. Kitchen said that the community was also blighted with more than 450 vacant properties and OARC had trouble finding business tenants for properties along Ogontz Avenue. Today, he says, there are less than 50 vacant homes and West Oak Lane’s commercial corridor is “one of the strongest in Philadelphia,” he remarked. “We really did accomplish our mission with the festival.”
Kitchen says West Oak Lane’s restaurants like Relish, Green Soul and Victoria’s Kitchen will likely participate in Night Market and he hopes newcomers will notice what the neighborhood now has to offer and return. “The community is starting to get very excited about having a venue come back to the neighborhood,” Kitchen enthused. “I’m hoping this will become a recurring event in West Oak Lane.”
A change of plans
When OARC announced the cancellation of the 2012 West Oak Lane Jazz Festival, the organization issued a press release which highlighted the festival’s success and impact on the neighborhood. The notice also presented a new vision for establishing a year-round Arts and Culture series in place of the festival.
“For now, the plan has been changed,” confirmed John Unger, OARC’s Chief Operating Officer. “There is no Arts and Culture Series planned for 2013.” Unger went on to say that while the arts are a part of OARC’s overall revitalization strategy, Night Market is the only cultural event on the organization’s agenda for next year.
OARC has already held two public information meetings concerning Night Market so far this autumn. The next community meeting is being planned for late January.