According to legend, in 1682, William Penn entered a treaty with the Lenape Indians at Shackamaxon — known today as Penn Treaty Park, under the shade of a magnificent ancient elm tree. In 1810, that elm was blown down by a storm.
As it were, people have been converging on the banks of the Delaware River for centuries, and Friday nights this August, that tradition continues.
Fantastic Fridays, a free evening concert and fireworks series, begins this Friday, Aug. 5, and features famous Philadelphia soul group the Sensational Soul Cruisers at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s our most ambitious program at the waterfront this year,” said AJ Thomson, president of the Friends of Penn Treaty Park, the host organization, along with the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation. “It’s gonna be a party on the river. Bring your family out and enjoy the music and the fireworks.
“It’s sort of our gift to the neighborhood for giving back to Penn Treaty Park, and to bring more people to the park,” he said. “It really all came into being when the DRWC said they would pay for fireworks.”
The next two Fantastic Friday free concerts are Aug. 19, featuring British Invasion, a Beatles and 1960s music tribute band, and Aug. 25, featuring an End of Summer Jam with Fusebox, playing hits from the 1960s through today.
A $20,000 grant from the Penn Treaty Special Services District to the FOPT last November helped to cover some of the cost of the series. The district is funded by SugarHouse Casino, located a few blocks away on Delaware Avenue.
Overall park maintenance and the transfer of one of the descendents of the original Shackamaxon elm from Haverford College to the park have also accounted for the allocation of the grant money, Thomson said. Future improvements to the park, like lighting, upgraded playground equipment and landscape design improvement at the river’s edge are on the future FOPT agenda.
“We were given this money by the casino with the objective to help worthy community organizations,” said PTSSD board member Joe Rafter. We certainly consider the Friends of Penn Treaty Park a worthy organization.”
“Maintaining the park is one thing,” said Rafter, “but then to utilize this space is great. It’s a local treasure we don’t utilize enough.”
The PTSSD was created after two years of negotiation with SugarHouse, local residents and authorities as part of a Community Benefits Agreement. The CBA states that SugarHouse will donate $1 million a year once Phase 2 of construction begins; right now, the amount is limited to $500,000. Members of local organizations can apply for grants and appear before the board to explain what their group would do with grant money. Recent grant recipients include Fishtown’s Lutheran Settlement House, Fishtown Athletic Club (AC), Fishtown Action, Friends of Orianna Hill Park and NLArts.
The Fantastic Fridays series is somewhat of a revamped continuation of the former Waterfront Wednesdays series hosted at the park in the past by the New Kensington Community Development Corp.
Friday, September 9, FOPT will host its annual Champagne In the Park. Jazz music and local boosters will raise funds for the group.
For more information visit www.PennTreatyPark.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Penn Treaty Park is located on the banks of the Delaware River, just beyond the intersection of Columbia and Delaware avenues.••