STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
It could be Philadelphia’s biggest free block party.
Claiming to be the nation’s oldest continuously operating outdoor market (it was founded in 1915), Philadelphia’s Italian market on South Ninth Street will host its signature annual event 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., rain or shine, May 21-22.
The Italian Market Festival, which will be held on Ninth Street all the way from Wharton to Federal streets, features live entertainment, crafts, family activities and food as far as the eye can see.
What should I make a point to check out?
A festival first will be DJs at the Pat’s King of Steaks Block Party Stage at Federal Street. During festival weekend, Pat’s will donate proceeds from the sale of cheesesteaks to the Veterans Multi-Service Center in Philadelphia. On both days, DJ Johnny Looch will be spinning on a stage at Ninth and Christian streets.
The Connie’s RicRac Local Music Flavor Stage at Ninth and Ellsworth streets will showcase musicians and vocalists from the tri-state area.
The Family Fun Zone at Ninth and the Montrose Piazza offers children’s programming and entertainment, including arts and crafts, music, story times, inflatables and more.
For the first time in festival history, all dogs are welcome to enjoy the Pit Stop Pooch Zone, a pet-friendly area on Christian Street between Ninth and Darian streets.
Near the Family Fun Zone, teams will compete both days for prizes of meats, cheeses, gift cards and money while battling a 30-foot greased pole.
On Saturday, May 21, ’60s bubblegum group 1910 Fruitgum Company (“Indian Giver,” “Simon Says,” “1, 2, 3 Red Light”) plays from noon to 4 p.m. at the Washington Avenue Main Stage, followed by an appearance by Jerry Blavat 4 to 6 p.m.
The John Marzano Half Ball Tournament — named for the Philly native son who played Major League Baseball for eight seasons, and the street version of baseball he played growing up — takes place at the Christopher Columbus Charter School at 916 Christian St. Play begins at 9 a.m. May 21. Registration fee is $125 per team and maximum team size is five players. Teams can register at the Italian Market Visitor Center at 919 S. Ninth St. or at the festival website at www.italianmarketfestival.com/halfball-tournament.html.
On Sunday, May 22, at 11 a.m. is a Procession of Saints, starting at St. Mary Magdalene Church, 712 Montrose St., pausing for the Blessing of the Market at Ninth and Washington Avenue, ending at Saint Paul Catholic Church at South Hutchinson and Christian streets.
Also on Sunday is an all make/model car show on Washington Avenue at Eighth Street.
The City Rhythm Orchestra entertains at the Washington Avenue Main Stage, along with Flyers and 76ers house DJ Perry Angelozzi.
Where can I find out more?
If you’ve never been there, get a feel for it at www.italianmarketfestival.com and make the Italian Market Visitor Center your first stop. The website has a map of the festival area and parking information. The visitor center’s phone number is (215) 278-2903.