Northeast Times

A touch of the shore in Philadelphia

 Eakins Oval has a sur­face area painted in­to a beach, blanket and board­walk theme. There are two large sand­boxes, four spray-mis­ters and live mu­sic, chess, check­ers, ping-pong, vol­ley­ball, bocce and mini­ature golf. And it's free.

  • Fun in the sun: Eakins Oval, located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, has been transformed into a beach themed area. The five-week long event will conclude on Aug. 18. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THEOVALPHL FACEBOOK PAGE

  • Fun in the sun: Eakins Oval, located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, has been transformed into a beach themed area. The five-week long event will conclude on Aug. 18. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THEOVALPHL FACEBOOK PAGE

  • Fun in the sun: Eakins Oval, located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, has been transformed into a beach themed area. The five-week long event will conclude on Aug. 18. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THEOVALPHL FACEBOOK PAGE

Mark Fo­cht wants Phil­adelphi­ans and tour­ists to know that there is plenty to do at The Oval, which is be­ing billed as “the new shape of fun.”

Fo­cht, first deputy com­mis­sion­er of the city De­part­ment of Parks and Re­cre­ation, was stand­ing at Eakins Oval, loc­ated on Ben­jamin Frank­lin Park­way, dur­ing a re­cent news con­fer­ence out­lining fun events sched­uled there this sum­mer.

The 8-acre site has been trans­formed, with the sur­face area painted in­to a beach, blanket and board­walk theme. There are two large sand­boxes and four spray-mis­ters, and guests can listen to live mu­sic and play chess, check­ers, Twister, ping-pong, vol­ley­ball, bad­min­ton, bocce and mini­ature golf.

“Everything is free,” said Fo­cht, mak­ing the ex­cep­tion for beer and food.

May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter, City Coun­cil Pres­id­ent Dar­rell Clarke and Coun­cil­man Bill Green­lee were also on hand for the an­nounce­ment, which fea­tured a disc jockey, chil­dren’s activ­it­ies and free ice cream bars.

The elec­ted of­fi­cials were joined by Kath­ryn Ott Lov­ell, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Fair­mount Park Con­servancy; Helen Dav­is Pich­er, in­ter­im pres­id­ent of the Wil­li­am Penn Found­a­tion, which is help­ing to fund the ini­ti­at­ive; and Jane Golden, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the city Mur­al Arts Pro­gram.

In­stead of cut­ting a ce­re­mo­ni­al rib­bon, the dig­nit­ar­ies used paint rollers on the then-un­fin­ished sur­face, which had been a park­ing lot.

“This is a work in pro­gress,” said Mi­chael DiB­er­ardinis, deputy may­or for en­vir­on­ment and com­munity re­sources and com­mis­sion­er of the parks and re­cre­ation de­part­ment, ex­plain­ing that he ex­pects the ini­ti­at­ive to grow in fu­ture years.

The sea­son began with an out­door show­ing of the movie E.T. The Ex­tra Ter­restri­al.

The activ­it­ies will con­tin­ue for the next three weeks, Tues­days through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., weath­er per­mit­ting.

High­lights have in­cluded a per­form­ance by the Ferko String Band and show­ings of pop­u­lar mid-1980s movies Fer­ris Bueller’s Day Off, Footloose, The Goon­ies, Rocky IV and Ghost­busters.

As­sum­ing the ini­ti­at­ive is a hit with the pub­lic and the fund­ing is avail­able, of­fi­cials plan to make The Oval an an­nu­al event, with an earli­er start in 2014.

“This is just the be­gin­ning of fun pro­gram­ming,” DiB­er­ardinis said.

DiB­er­ardinis be­lieves The Oval is a per­fect fit for an area that has re­cently seen the Rod­in Mu­seum re­fur­bished and the Barnes Mu­seum open.

“This is a won­der­ful peri­od for the Park­way,” he said.

Nut­ter de­scribed the Park­way as a “beau­ti­ful boulevard” that de­serves The Oval rather than a black­top park­ing lot. The ini­ti­at­ive fits in with the city’s goal of mak­ing the traffic-heavy Park­way more “park” and less “way.”

The of­fi­cial end to the series of activ­it­ies is Aug. 18, though there are plans to add so-called “pop-up” pro­grams through Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber.

For an up-to-date sched­ule of events, call 215-683-3600, vis­it phila.gov/TheOv­al or check out TheOval­PHL page on Face­book. ••

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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