Philadelphia is a Hub for Quirky Events and Festivals
This weekend, the normally quiet town of Kennett Square, outside of Philadelphia, transforms into a fungus soiree. Its annual Mushroom Festival (September 12 and 13) hosts more than 100,000 people who make the pilgrimage annually to party and chow down in the world’s Mushroom Capital.
They’ll have a carnival, parade, painted mushroom silent auction, mushroom soup event , and appetizer cook-off at their disposal, among a litany of other entertainment. Mushrooms aren’t the only unusual honoree on the area’s long list of events and festivals, though. It seems the Philadelphia area thrives in celebrating the quirky—in its own distinguished way. Here are seven more annual events that are irreverent, unusual—and uniquely Philadelphian.
Silver Screen Inspiration
The motto of the tongue-in-cheek Rocky 50K, happening December 5, is: "No Fees, No Awards, No Aid, No Wimps." Not a race in the traditional sense, the event follows fictional-boxer Rocky's training run through Philadelphia, as seen in the 1976 film with Sylvester Stallone. The route is barely marked and streets aren’t closed for participants. In fact, participants are expected to use public transportation and taxis to finish the course. Expect lots of grey sweatsuits, sweatbands, and Sly impressions.
Run, don’t walk, to Phoenixville’s Blobfest which takes place at the historic Colonial Theatre every summer to commemorate the 1958 horror classic The Blob. Much of the film was shot here, and a highlight of the festival is the “Run Out,” when fans reenact the scene where theatergoers run screaming from a movie theater. There’s also a street fair, Blob Ball, and a competition for best tin foil hat.
What started as a small, local radio station event has morphed into a behemoth wing-eating sporting event. Doors for Wing Bowl—which now sells out Philadelphia’s biggest indoor stadium each January—open at 5 a.m. This one is not kid-friendly: Drinking starts early and doesn’t stop until a winner is crowned. (The 2015 victor crushed 444 wings, by the way.) The Mayor can often be spotted in the arena, as can scantily clad cheerleaders known as Wingettes.
In Philadelphia, a cold sandwich with deli meat, cheese and veggies served on a long roll is not a sub, hero, or grinder. It’s a hoagie. Wawa Hoagie Day pays homage to the beloved sandwich with a picnic that serves five tons of hoagies. The event—held on Independence Mall on Independence Day weekend—features a history of the hoagie exhibit, musical guests, and free admission to the National Constitution Center all day.
Arts and Education
A spaceship propelled by four cyclists rolling down a city street? It’s all the rage at the hipster-friendly Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby, where teams build and parade elaborate human-powered sculptural floats. Held in May as part of the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival, the derby displays fascinating feats of design. Some teams employ half a dozen bikes to power theirs, while others use creative engineering to take the burden off of the team’s legs. The only rule is no stored energy, motors or electricity. Teams compete for titles like Best Art, Best Costume and Best/Worst Pun. This year’s winner? “You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Float.”
A local drag troupe reenacts the events leading up to Bastille Day in song and costume at a former prison that resembles the Parisian landmark where its own holiday takes place. At Eastern State Penitentiary’s Bastille Day (July 14), actors take hilarious liberties with history, but fittingly conclude with Marie Antoinette shouting “Let Them Eat Cake” while throwing hundreds of Tastykakes—butterscotch krimpets, a Philly favorite—from the roof into the hungry crowd.
Kids love Bug Fest at the Academy of Natural Sciences, a two-day event in August. The creepy-crawly itinerary includes cockroach racing, edible bug treats, and live displays of beetles, tarantulas, and scorpions. New in 2015: bug yoga, which borrows postures from insects on display. Dressing as a bug earns $2 off admission.
Sarah Maiellano is on the Philadelphia beat for Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter at @SarahMaiellano.