Children raced around in a blur of motion, many of them clutching bags of candy and wearing bright face paint. Older neighbors sat on lawn chairs and watched, smiling. Port Richmond parents chatted and kept an eye on their kids.
Everyone, it seemed, was smiling.
It was a classic weekend evening on Richmond Street, and it happened last Saturday night, as part of the first-ever “Second Saturday” celebration in Port Richmond.
“It’s exceeded expectations,” said Matt Pizzola, one of the Second Saturdays organizers, as hundreds of friends and neighbors swarmed around him on Richmond Street on Saturday, Aug. 10. “I didn’t expect anything like this.”
Richmond Street was blocked off between East Clearfield Street and Allegheny Avenue, and packed with hundreds of neighbors during Second Saturday festivities. More than 800 neighbors attended.
Music flooded Allegheny Avenue, food trucks sold steaming plates of sausage and chicken in the middle of the street, and on the Clearfield Street side, visitors enjoyed a classic car show that featured vintage Cadillacs and Pontiacs.
Local vendors sold jewelry and other crafts, while educators from the Port Richmond Academy, a new local pre-kindergarten program, were painting children’s faces in different designs.
Planned as Port Richmond’s own version of the popular First Friday events around the city, Second Saturdays will return for the next two months – Saturday, Sept. 14 and Saturday, Oct. 12 – before a hiatus over the winter. Then, Second Saturday will return in Spring 2014.
“Do you see anybody not smiling?” asked Wayne Bullock, owner of the Sweets & Treats candy shop, and sponsor of the Second Saturday event, as he gestured at the crowds of neighbors having a good time.
“Every vendor has a line. It’s awesome,” Bullock said.
One of those vendors was The Tot Cart, a brand new Port Richmond business that serves up delicious, crispy, gourmet tater tots.
“It ain’t just potatoes!” Tot Cart co-owner Julie Crist said of her tots.
On Saturday, the Tot Cart was selling a variety of tater tots — tots with garlic and Parmesan cheese, with crab seasoning, and with their special “drunk cheese,” which is made with Yards Brewery beer. The specialty item of the night was the “Mann-wich” – tater tots with a scoopful of Sloppy Joe ground beef and drunk cheese on top.
“I love them. And other people love them. There’s no other reason,” said Crist of why she and partner Julie Orso decided to start selling tots full-time in March.
Residents from all of the River Wards were crawling up and down Richmond Street during Second Saturday.
“I love trying new things, especially new foods,” said Maria Tanczak, a Northern Liberties native who resides in Fishtown. “It’s great to see all the people who came out. This whole area used to be very ethnic, purely Polish – and my dad used come to the Polish bakery down here all the time.”
“I fell in love with the neighborhood a while back,” Pizzola explained of his motivation for organizing Second Saturday. “The community’s so great – but there’s not always a lot to do.”
Bill Mason, a co-organizer who also set up the portrichmondphl.org web site as a hub for neighborhood announcements, agreed.
“This is where I want to settle down and raise my family,” said Mason, a Phoenixville native who moved to Port Richmond three years ago. “But I also want to have something to do here on a Saturday night.”
Among the vendors participating were Philly Inked, a Tacony-based T-shirt company, which was selling Port Richmond shirts for $10 each. Port Richmond Books was open late for visitors to Second Saturday. The Krakus Supermarket was open late as well, and was selling Polish specialties and showing off its newly renovated interior.
Second Saturday didn’t lack in the arts and crafts department, either. Caroline Thraves of Port Richmond, owner of Sideshow Stitch, was selling “zombie-finger chapstick cozies,” as well as “little monster” pillows she made herself. Right beside her, Tina Baskins, of Fishtown, proprietor of MoodSwing Oddities, was selling hand-crafted and hand-sculpted jewelry. Both women said they would definitely return for Second Saturday next month.
Other vendors at Second Saturday included the Poi Dog Food Truck, Gigi & Big R food truck, Grandma’s Candle Castle, Kasher Creations, Breathing Room Yoga Studio, Mill Creek Apiary, Le Dora Flair and Shay Stones.
As Bullock put it, Second Saturday is intended to bring attention to Richmond Street’s small businesses and help make it Port Richmond’s “Main Street” once more.
“I want to bring Richmond Street back to the way it used to be,” Bullock said. ••
For more on Second Saturdays or to become a vendor, search for “Port Richmond Second Saturdays” on Facebook, or visit portrichmondphl.org.