Summer is quickly approaching and with it comes the annual call for spring celebrations. Deep green leaves will visit again the tall trees that line Parkside Avenue. The rush of children running from one summer program to the next will once again fill the streets. Neighborhood businesses will soon ready their shelves with refreshing items, while cultural organizations prepare new experiences for frequent visitors and tourists alike. As the season changes, the air is filled with expectations of warm weather and residents look forward to the plethora of community offerings that await them. On June 3, Parkside will welcome the summer with two community-wide festivals that draw hundreds of residents to their corridors on an annual basis: The West Park Arts Fest and Festival @ ParkWest Town Center.
This year, the West Park Arts Fest and Festival @ ParkWest Town Center share the same 10-year anniversary, and will be joining efforts to maximize the experience for festival-goers. Guided historic trolleys beginning and ending at the West Park Arts Fest will connect both festivals to ensure that visitors have the opportunity to experience both events. Festival goers will also benefit from a scenic tour through Fairmount Park’s Centennial District.
The West Park Arts Fest was created by the West Park Cultural Center in 2008 as a vehicle to promote cultural diversity, celebrate the arts, and bring people together across neighborhoods. “Many of our festival goers have expressed how much they like the family atmosphere and cultural diversity,” says Betty Lindley, Executive Director of the West Park Cultural Center. Lindley champions the efforts of the diverse partners that contribute to the success of the program each year. “The festival embraced partnership and has over the years been made possible in great part to the participation of many arts, cultural, and community partners.”
Lindley is excited about the Center’s new collaboration with the Fairmount Park Conservancy and Global Philadelphia Association. “This represents a major milestone for the West Park Arts Fest and builds on the original mission,” prides Lindley. “Through this joint effort we are taking the West Park Arts Fest to the next level with increased participation and greater awareness of West Fairmount Park and surrounding communities,” she adds.
The Fairmount Park Conservancy is equally grateful for the partnership as they feel this opportunity is directly aligned with their mission “to bring positive, family friendly activities to park spaces.” Jennifer Mahar, Senior Director of Civic Initiatives, feels the collaboration is timely with the festival moving from its usual venue, School of the Future, to West Fairmount Park. “The shift requires a whole new set of logistics,” says Mahar. “Our Special Events Coordinator has years of experience in organizing large-scale outdoor events and we were more than happy to help!”
The Global Philadelphia Association was born shortly after the West Park Arts Fest and has since grown tremendously in size and form. Since November 2015, the Association, in partnership with the City of Philadelphia, has been executing a World Heritage City initiative that capitalizes on the city’s diverse historical and cultural assets. John Smith, Board Chair of the Association, often says, “Our World Heritage City should be a city of the world’s heritages.” “We see the opportunity to work with the various organizations in the Parkside community as a way to explore how we can bring that concept to life, and have enjoyed our many interactions with the community,” Smith shared.
The Executive Director of the Association, Zabeth Teelucksingh, has a fondness for the Parkside community and enjoys driving pass the Victorian-style homes during her weekly trips to the international market. Regarding the Association’s affiliation with the Arts Fest, Teelucksingh remarks, “Parkside through its numerous constituents epitomizes much of what is global in Philadelphia. We look forward to helping relay that story to the international community in the region and beyond.”
The Festival @ ParkWest Town Center has several partnerships of its own and each member is eager to make this year’s festival the town square of all town squares. On March 1, Executive Director of West Philadelphia Financial Services, Jim Burnett, convened the first planning meeting with attendees from various organizations in the community. Some attendees included representatives from The Goldenberg Group, Parkside Association, Global Leadership Academy, Discovery Charter School, and West Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries.
The Festival @ ParkWest Town Center is the annual celebration of the joint venture between West Philadelphia Financial Services and The Goldenberg Group. This June marks the 10th anniversary of ParkWest Town Center’s grand opening and commemorates the active involvement of community members since its establishment. “We created this festival to thank our shoppers,” says Burnett. Before the installation of the Town Center, West Parkside was a food desert with little to no access to fresh foods.
When asked about the significance of the annual festival, Burnett points to, “resident ownership of their community.” Timothy Smith of The Goldenberg Group adds, “the festival is about generating greater community pride and is a celebration of the asset that this Center is to the community. This is the ethos of Goldengberg.” Smith says he enjoys working for a company that uses its assets to do meaningful work.
The two also discussed the social and educational impact of the festival. “It’s like a family reunion,” said Burnett with a childlike grin on his face. The festival provides an opportunity for community residents to reconnect and build new alliances. The diligent efforts of students are also recognized as carefully selected seniors from neighboring high schools receive scholarship awards on an annual basis. The festival is in short, “a groundswell of community pride,” offered Smith.
Burnett, Lindley, and their respective partners are highly anticipant of both festivals 10-year anniversary celebration. With the two festivals occurring the same day, they expect the events to draw a new and larger audience, promote Parkside’s historic and cultural heritage, and generate a deeper level of civic pride and engagement.