The day the bronze moose shone

Posted: June 25, 2007

A funky bronze moose and a pack of weird metallic dogs sculpted from from bits of bicycle, wheelbarrow and other hardware shone in the sun and turned heads at the Manayunk Arts Festival yesterday, a beautiful first Sunday of the summer.

More than 200,000 people thronged the weekend event, the 18th annual, according to the festival's founder, Gertrude Solkov, who clearly was tickled at the turnout. Smiling people took in the sights, sounds and tastes offered by more than 300 vendors who lined a roughly 10-block stretch of Main Street with bright white tents and colorful wares.

"In our first year, we probably had 100 vendors. But they kept coming back year after year, and now we have vendors from California and all over," said Solkov, who launched the event when she was president of the Manayunk Business Association. "People come because they like the mix of jewelry, artwork, glassblowing, fiber art, paintings and all."

Free samples of iced tea, yogurt drinks, Mohito rum shots, Cosmopolitans and beer were a bonus for the crowd, which mostly inched down the narrow street. People also could lunch at a number of sidewalk cafes close to the festival action.

"Free drugs," a young man and woman shouted to startled passers-by. The couple got laughs while handing out sample packets of Advil, one of a number of freebies companies offered. Geico was giving out Polaroid photographs, taken with a costumed gecko, to anyone who took the bait.

Meanwhile, Amy Ondeyka, 24, of Manayunk, and Brian Piacitelli, 26, of Fort Washington, were eyeing a metallic, dog-shaped wine holder at the Junkyard Dogs & Cats booth. "I'll be back for this guy. I'd use him to hold a red wine bottle and sit him out on a table," Ondeyka said.

Jeff Scanes, 50, of West Chester, asked the artist, Chris Hildenbrandt, whether he would be able to make one for him in the shape of his dog, a springer spaniel. "It's a great conversation piece, isn't it?" he marvelled.

Hildenbrandt, who came up from Louisville, Ky., said he used to own a hardware shop and began making art from recycled metal objects on a whim. "We were just fooling around," he said.

Nearby, Marilyn Cattin of Halifax, Vt., was hawking Ikebana vases and offering impromptu lessons in how to arrange varying lengths of flowers in the squat floral container.

Peg Salinger, a Collegeville woman in her 60s, was thrilled to find the specialty vase, saying she had been looking to replace one she broke. "I've only seen it at the Philadelphia Flower Show before this," she said. "It's great, because you can display just a few flowers and they really stand up nice in this vase."

People strolled by, walking their dogs, pushing baby carriages, holding hands, licking ice cream cones, and juggling awkward packages.

Mr. Magic, a street magician, entertained a crowd with his disappearing act and a live white rabbit, while Daniel Nie combined fancy, Japanese-like characters with people's names, an art he calls Coolligraphy.

Barely anyone was talking on a cell phone - there was too much to see and do. "It's OK to have too much fun," stated a bumper sticker that was on sale at one booth. That seemed to sum up the feeling on this warm, sunny day.

Contact staff writer Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or

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