Sunday's Fairmount Art Crawl will find 40-plus Art Museum-area businesses opening their doors to artists for a series of pop-up galleries.
Then there's the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts' (PIFA) street fair on Saturday. "After figuring logistics, closing the street, getting tents and gardens up overnight, etc., the excitement comes from being with thousands of people enjoying the day," says PIFA's artistic director Jay Wahl.
PIFA's 2011 block party brought nearly 200,000 visitors to its French-themed fair of musicians dangling from chandeliers hundreds of feet above Broad Street, trampoline artists, and "the Living Fountain." That fountain returns to PIFA's public party and its time-machine theme, with interactive displays featuring swinging Spanish galleons, life-size T. rexes, the DeLorean from Back to the Future and a dancing Disco Robot.
"Rather than top PIFA 2011, we'll create an amazing experience with the gates of time opening and pouring onto Broad," Wahl says.
Saturday's East Passyunk festivities, stretching along the avenue from Broad to Federal Streets, will include the Flavors of the Avenue restaurant fest and the Crafty Balboa craft show's "April Showers" artisan event.
"It's exciting being on East Passyunk now, somehow different from when I lived in Philly previously," says chef Joncarl Lachman, a first-time participant in Flavors of the Avenue, who will cook menu items from his soon-to-debut Northern European restaurant, Noord. "It's not just the food. It's everything and everybody here."
East Passyunk, a diagonal corridor across South Philly, hosts cool block parties with packed-tight crowds. Last year, East Passyunk's Car Show drew a crowd of 7,000 humans and 130 show autos. The Halloween-themed Fall Fest & Spooky Saturday drew 2,500 folks and pets for its costume contest for kids and dogs. Events from the Easter Egg Hunt to the most recent Second Saturday found 1,000 shoppers browsing for fine fashion (Scioli tailoring, Mia), vinyl albums (Beautiful World Syndicate), and religious objects (St. Jude's Shop), among other things.
Still, that burgeoning area's prime movers - East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District executive director Renee Gilinger and Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corporation executive director Samuel Sherman - think of this weekend as their coming-out party.
"This is what happens when people work collaboratively," says Sherman, pointing to how East Passyunk evolved from 2002's high vacancy rate to become this city's most in-demand culinary street (only 4 percent vacancy), celebrated by Food & Wine Magazine's May issue as one of the "10 Best Foodie Streets in America," with nods to Fond, Marra's, and Will BYOB. "East Passyunk has a rich, complex history that's totally deserving of a coming-out party," he says.
Gilinger says those aforementioned restaurants will join 22 others of all tastes and price points at the Flavors bash, a test of complexity she loves tackling. "Getting 25 chefs into one big tent is a complicated puzzle," she says with a laugh. "Luckily, I played a lot of Tetris as a teenager."
East Passyunk is nothing if not eclectic.
While the Crafty Balboa part of the party finds diverse vendors like Black Heart Letterpress, Hannah's Ideas in Wood, and Jay McCarroll Apparel + Accessories selling their wares, the Flavors of the Avenue tent will burst with more than two dozen taste sensations from the now-famous area's heartiest restaurants. There'll be Abruzzese pork delicacies from Le Virtu, French-inspired nibbles from Will, raw and cooked flavors from Izumi, and Mexican morsels from El Zarape.
Sherman and Gilinger stress that East Passyunk's mix of fine and casual dining, retail amenities and services, and locally owned businesses makes it both a strong neighborhood and a draw for visitors. "East Passyunk needs to be an asset for its residents first," Sherman stresses, which is why he pushed chef/restaurant owners such as Will BYOB's Christopher Kearse and Noord's Lachman to live above their restaurants and become part of East Passyunk's intricate tapestry. Lachman found the idea romantic. "That's totally old-school merchant," he says.
And intensely local. Gilinger emphasizes that 73 percent of East Passyunk's business district is neighborhood-owned. "We have five blocks without a chain store," she says. "We're proud of that."
Gilinger sees a neighborly spirit at work in the block party preparations. "There's camaraderie between the chefs exemplified by their willingness to support their neighbors, especially when they're in a tent working less than two feet away from each other," she says. "Everything about East Passyunk - from the Avenue to the Flavor event - is about closeness."
That's what makes for the best block party: close-knit neighbors throwing a party everyone can love.
Block Party Weekend
Flavors of the Avenue Noon-4 p.m. East Passyunk Avenue, between Dickinson and Morris Streets. Admission: $30. Advance tickets sold out; a limited number available at the entrance to the festival tent at 10 a.m. Information: visiteastpassyunk.com/flavors.
Crafty Balboa "April Showers" 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the outdoor market at East Passyunk and Tasker Avenues. Admission: Free. Information: craftybalboa.blogspot.com.
Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts Street Fair 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on South Broad Street from Chestnut to South Streets. Admission: Free. www.PIFA.org/streetfair.
Sprung! South Street West Pub Crawl Noon to 6 p.m. at participating bars from Grays Ferry Avenue to Broad Street. Admission: $5. Information: sswba.org.
Fairmount Avenue Arts Crawl 2 to 6 p.m. throughout the Fairmount neighborhood. Admission: Free. Information: fairmountcdc.org.