This fall, as life in our area gets back to a new normal, one of the surest signs is the return of the Fall for the Arts Festival coming September 26.
On Sept. 26, Germantown Ave. from Rex to Willow Grove Aves., will once again be closed to traffic for the 36th annual festival that draws thousands of guests and dozens of artists, sculptors, potters and jewelry designers to a tented celebration on our cobblestone street.
With 100 vendors expected this year, including more than fifty new artists, the festival will also feature the return of family activities, live music, and foods from several participating restaurants. The return to the traditional format is a welcome and exciting harbinger of fall.
“This is a great Chestnut Hill tradition and our longest running event,” said Chestnut Hill Business District Executive Director Philip Dawson. “We hope people come out with their families to support” the vendors and event.
Last year, the festival was not held at all due to COVID-19 restrictions. It was a break in tradition and a jarring disappointment for locals who consider it, much like Eagles football, the quintessential kick-off to the fall season. The annual spring Home and Garden Stroll did take place in May of this year, but the event was truncated to feature a strolling walk down Germantown Ave., which was not shuttered to traffic.
This year, Fall for the Arts festivalgoers will find that the original tented format has returned, with just a few tweaks. All guests strolling the Avenue will be required to wear masks, since there will be an abundance of foot traffic. Guests will also be asked to wear masks in shops as they walk in and out.
Tents will be jammed with arts and crafts to peruse and to buy, with artists on hand to give demonstrations and to talk about their wares. Some artists will offer plein air painting demonstrations as well.
Many of these artists are returning vendors, who are excited to be back. Maura Matthews, who paints Wissahickon landscapes, has been a participant since 2009. Last year, she missed being on the Hill for her annual artistic showcase. This year, she plans to show festivalgoers how she does one of her palette knife paintings with a live demonstration.
“I am so excited it is happening!” Matthews said. “I’ve been doing it for so many years that it is part of my fall rhythm. I’m really excited it is back.”
The festival will also feature some new artists and vendors this year, including Mercedes Dennis, an assistant manager at Kitchen Kapers who spent part of the pandemic launching her own online thrift store called Purpose Purchase thrift (purposepurchasethrift.com).
Dennis will have a spot at the festival this year to showcase some of the fun fashions she has curated on her site, including clothing, jewelry and shoes. All of her items are donated, and her vision is to create a community resource where everyone from teens to parents can buy affordable, high-end goods.
“I’m super excited to participate,” Dennis said. “I hope to get new clients, and people who didn’t know I existed online. I’m about recycling and reusing. It’s super affordable for teens and parents.”
Just outside the tented area, the family zone is also returning, with kids’ activities at the PNC Bank Orange Lot on the 8300 block of Germantown Ave. Live music will fill the streets, with two stages set up at Bethlehem Pike and Germantown Ave., featuring music from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. A variety of performers including Classic Rockers, City Rhythm, the Dukes of Destiny and the Arlene Hilton Jazz Quartet are all slated to play.
Restaurants are also getting in on action, with the Chestnut Grill and McNally’s offering outdoor dining areas, and The Fresh Market hosting beverages and a kids’ pumpkin decorating station.
Weavers Way Co-op will have grab-and-go foods and drinks and Stateside Vodka, Philly’s own vodka producer, will man a booth at Germantown Ave. and Gravers Lane with seasonal cocktails and bottle sales.
And what would the festival be without Old Fashioned KettleKorn? The beloved booth will be back at the corner of Southampton and Germantown next to the Christ Lutheran Church.
Now we know it’s really fall.
For more information about the Fall for the Arts Festival 2021, go to www.chestnuthillpa.com or call 215-247-6696.