Coming up soon in Clark Park….

As spring fades into summer, Clark Park invites leisurely hanging out. It’s fun to enjoy the tranquility of the scene and to watch fellow West Philadelphians go about their pleasant (and sometimes colorful) ways.

T-0594-673But there are lively organized activities coming up soon as well.

This Saturday, may 30, the Philadelphia Pétanque Tournament will hold forth in the Central Plaza of the North Park from 10 am to 4 pm. Teams will compete all day long in this unique French bowling game, which involves tossing, not rolling, steel balls toward a puck. It’s easy to play — although hard to play well. And it can be mesmerizing to watch.

T-0413-661On Saturday, Jun 13, the Uhuru People’s Fleamarket will be held in the Middle Park, at 43rd & Chester. Browsers enjoy poking through its aisles looking for items that pique their ciuriosity or things they never knew they needed until that moment. The fleamarket runs from 9 am to 5 pm.

On saturday, Jun 20, the Clark Park Music & Arts Solstice Festival will continue its tradition of more than 40 years in the Bowl. A diverse cross-section of up-and-coming musical acts will show what the Philly music scene is capapble of! A wide variety of fine artists and craftsmen will display their wares.
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Welcome to the Beergarden!

Clark_Park_Flyer_Big_TypeHow the beergarden works; if you are a new or renewing member who reups at the party, your first Dock Street beer is free; $3 thereafter. Nonmembers’ beer is $5. So you don’t have to join to enjoy!

Membership levels: Patron = $50 (2 votes/tickets), Household = $25 (2 votes/tickets), Individuals = $20, Student/Senior/Limited Income = $10.

Holy Night – but Not Silent in Clark Park…

carols 14-1Clark Park lovers joined tonight in one of the oldest park traditions: Christmas caroling by the shed, on top of which a glittering Christmas tree is mounted. As dusk fell, it shone over three score merry carolers of all ages.

Skill was unimportant; just singing together as a community mattered.

A row of bagged candles lit the walk from Chester Ave. to the shed. Everyone got a candle and a songbook when they arrived.

Carolers ran through a hitlist that ran from the Middle Ages to 1950. Most are well known by ear to all who show up.
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To wrap it up, nine brave voices worked their way through Handel’s Alleluia Chorus. Scores were provided but otherwise the volunteers were on their own. The chorus was strong this year.

Then everybody broke for hot cider and catching up. It’s a great, quick, fun way to meet your neighbors.

–Tony West

Come a-Caroling in Clark Park This Sunday!

herald angelsHark the Herald Angels Sing … in CLARK PARK at the annual Tree Lighting & Carol Sing on Sunday, Dec. 14 at 5 pm at the Community Christmas Tree near 45th & Regent St., atop the shed.

This wonderful, longstanding event draws 75 people each year as a hushed winter night falls. We sing traditional favorites (lyrics provided). At the end, a few venturous souls try to sing the Alleluia Chorus; it’s both charming & funny.

Hot-cider refreshments come thanks to the Friends of Clark Park.

Clark Park Equinox Festival Is On!

On Saturday, Sep. 21 over 40 vendors and 9 bands will gather to celebrate the community supported Clark Park Fall Equinox Festival. The Festival happens on the Saturday closest to the Summer solstice and Fall equinox annually.

Since 1970, the Clark Park Music & Arts Festival has been a neighborhood tradition. They are a forum for residents to meet their neighbors and benefit from the artistic wealth of Philadelphia. Responding to the needs of a changing community, the Festival has grown in scope. Today the Festival includes children’s face painting, arts and crafts vending, a greater diversity of music performances and a chance for nonprofit organizations to reach out to the neighborhood.

Each year the Clark Park festival focuses on the incredible local music scene. This year’s musical performance include Philly’s 7-piece rock band Southworks, The Fleeting Ends, The Districts, Jackie Paper, The Deadeyes, Seismic Thrust, Black Stars, THATAFS, and Thee, Idea Men. Come out and enjoy the free music, art and vendors.

The festival starts at noon and will continue till sundown. Free!

For more information on Clark Park Music & Arts Festival, please visit: http://www.facebook.com/clarkparkfest

–Joshua M. Craft
Music Director
Clark Park Music & Arts Festival

Pianos to return to Clark Park in June!

We are delighted that Heart & Soul: The University City Public Piano Project, will return to Clark Park from June 7 – 15th. This year, the interactive public art project from the University City District will occur only in Clark Park, featuring four distinct, artist-decorated pianos placed throughout the park. Passersby are invited to play the pianos to their hearts content, whether they are practiced maestro or a casual novice. Last year, the University City District project featured eight decorated pianos at various places around the neighborhood. Clark Park’s piano in the central plaza was painted by Katie Holeman with a motif of lively and lush plants adorning a charming and secretive door to another world. The project was a fantastic success, and Clark Park’s piano was rarely, if ever, without a player or two. This year we are thrilled to be the selected site for all four pianos and we invite everyone to stop by to tickle the ivories!

The Birth of the Clark Park Music and Arts Festival

A few days ago, we posted a request for any materials people may have about the history of Clark Park. Amazingly, that request went a long ways away… and brought forth a piece of real history. 

Richard Fortman of New York, NY, was one of the organizers for what is, probably, the earliest Clark Park Music Festival.  He was kind enough to send a PDF scan of a flyer/poster, which he estimates is from 1974 or 1975. Here’s what he wrote: 

Hi Brian: My friend Peter Taney was kind enough to forward your request for historical materials on Clark Park. I have attached two pdfs from what I believe was the first music festival held in Clark Park – I think it was in 1975, though we didn’t include years in any of the posters I have, and it could have been 1974. I organized and ran the Clark Park festival for three (maybe four) years, from 1974 or 1975 through 1977, with the invaluable help of so many people. Among them were Peters Day (sadly, he passed away this year in Paris) who was a fine musician and artist, and did the poster for the first festival; Peter Taney (also an incredibly talented musician and performer, who did t-shirts for all the festivals, did the posters for the second and third Clark Park festivals, played in all of them, and was an exceptional ambassador for the festival and a p.r. guru when I didn’t really know what p.r. was); Jack McGann (a supremely talented musician); Charles Grumbling, who donated the services of his lithographic printing company to print high quality posters for the second festival and helped with sound; several staff members from WXPN; and so many other volunteers, without whose help the festivals would not have happened. When I went to law school in 1978, I was able to find someone (whose name, unfortunately, escapes me) willing to take on the responsibility. I believe he ran it for at least two years, but after him, my knowledge of the festival, goes cold.

Two things combined to give me the idea for holding a festival in Clark Park. One was that I lived at 47th and Baltimore, and passed Clark Park every day on my way to and from work (I worked for Temple University three days per week, and part-time at The Eatery, a collectively-run restaurant that flourished for many years in The Christian Association building on Locust Walk). It was impossible not to notice that there were no events to speak of in the Park, other than gatherings of enthusiastic dogs and their owners. The other was that I was playing music at the time with various groupings of people – including Peter Taney, Janet Bregman, Jeff Claus, Judy Hyman, Frank Springer and Victor Alpher – in the Larchwood String Band and other local bands. So I was looking for places for us and our friends to play. The clincher was that the mother of a friend was involved in the Mariposa Food Coop, and told me that a festival would be a great way for the coop to earn money to help defray costs. Anything to help Mrs. M!

I had never worked in any capacity promoting a concert or a music festival, so when I decided to try to make the Clark Park festival happen, I sought out the advice of two people in the West Philly neighborhood – Peter Taney and Jack McGann. Peter had developed a list of media contacts in the Philadelphia area, which he gave to me (on a manila envelope, which I discovered this morning when I checked to see what materials I have from the early festivals). I scanned it for you and have attached it for whatever historical interest it may hold.

Having Peter on board was key, as he was close with many talented musicians, including Jack McGann. Both Peter and Jack graciously agreed to play, as did a group called Tiger. Among the other acts that played that first year were the Larchwood String Band (OK, cronyism, but Peter Taney, Jeff Claus and Judy Hyman have all gone on to make their marks in music, so they certainly were deserving), and a local musician named Ken Kweder, who I believe is still active in the area. I know there were others, but because the line-up wasn’t settled until a few days before the concert, none of the performers are listed on the poster.

One thing I learned from the first festival is that people have a huge capacity for generosity. If the cause seems right, they want to help. And help they did – with good humor and no pay. Many, many individuals volunteered their time, on tasks ranging from p.r. (much of which consisted of trudging around West Philly, finding places to put up posters), to set-up, to sound, to clean-up. The school/center at the edge of the Park (I think it was for Cerebral Palsy), kindly agreed to let us plug into their electric grid. The City of Philadelphia provided a stage – which they set up and removed – along with Port-a-san toilets.

And lots of people came. In my mind’s eye, that first festival was almost as large as Woodstock, and the next two were even larger, though memory may have inflated the totals just a bit. I do know that it grew in popularity each year, and also changed names each year. I think the second year was called “The Penultimate West Philadelphia Bluegrass and Bouzouki Festival – reflecting the fact that two talented Greek musicians from the neighborhood, John Roussos and Alkis Kitides, played (as did, if memory serves, David Amram) and that I was less-than-informed as to the meaning of “penultimate.” I think the third year was called the “Ultimate West Philadelphia Bluegrass and Bouzouki Festival.

I’ll look for other posters I may have, though I fear the second and third years may be lost in multiple moves, home mishaps, and the vicissitudes of time. Let me know if any of this was helpful.

Best regards,
Richard Fortmann, New York, NY

Open Call for Clark Park Historical Materials

The Friends of Clark Park would like to ask our neighbors and supporters to share any and all materials they may have about the history of Clark Park– especially before 1990.

We’ve recently assembled most of our known archival materials in one place. We’ve found a lot of fascinating material (for example, a lot of newspaper coverage of the damage done to the Little Nell statue in the 1990s). But Clark Park’s been around since the 1880s, and a lot has probably happened here.

Also, we came across a reference to a document titled “Clark Park History,” written inn 1974 by Edythe Ferris and Robert A. Brothers. But we can’t locate a copy of this. We’re certain that one exists, somewhere in West Philadelphia.

So, if you have any photos, news clippings, history texts, or access to these, please contact Brian Siano at briansiano@gmail.com.