Night Market season kicks off along Roxborough’s Ridge Avenue

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Philadelphia’s first Night Market of 2016 kicked off on Ridge Avenue in Roxborough on Thursday night.

The annual food truck-centric event sponsored by the Food Trust drew in a crowd of approximately 25,000 people from varying neighborhoods in the city, Food Trust communications manager Carolyn Huckabay said.

“The goal of Night Market is to get people to parts of Philly they might not know,” Huckabay said. “We always try to work with a community organization. Communities, like Roxborough, usually want people to come.”

Philadelphia’s Night Market is sponsored by the Food Trust, a nonprofit group dedicated to providing healthy, affordable food for economically disadvantaged regions. The group was founded in Philadelphia in 1992 and offers a variety of programs, including hosting farmers markets and providing nutrition education.

The Night Market works with local business owners along with food trucks from around Philadelphia to coordinate the annual events. Taking place in new neighborhoods each year, the Night Market tends to draw in people who rarely visit the area where it is hosted.

The market locations are usually posted several months in advance, with the exception of this summer. The next two markets will be held in West Philly and Callowhill, but the final market of the season in October has yet to be announced, as a sort of experiment to “see what happens,” Huckabay said.

This story originally appeared on Newsworks.org

Cunningham Piano Company hosted ‘Rolls Royce’ of pianos

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Cunningham Piano Company of Germantown, an award winning piano group, was home to a rare Bosendorfer piano, the Opus No. 50000, last month.

Bosendorfer produces roughly 300 pianos per year, and the prestigious company, after more than 120 years in business, created a gold plated piece to be presented at various piano companies around the country.

“We’ve had a few things like this before, but this is an extremely rare piano,” co-owner of Cunningham Piano, Rich Galassini, said. “It’s certainly one of the top. It’s one of the best things I’ve been a part of.”

Galassini said he believes access to a fine Bosendorfer piano could inspire young musicians to continue to pursue the art.

“The labor is the slowest and most careful in the world,” Galassini said. “It takes 10 years to make and producers must spend years learning how to produce the piece.”

The piano company currently houses roughly ten other Bosendorfer pianos in their shop, but the Opus 50000 is one of the rarest pieces to have ever been in the shop.

“The Bosendorfer has been called the ‘Rolls Royce’ of pianos,” Galassini added.

Pints for North Light raises funds for local community center

North Light Community Center hosted its seventh annual silent auction at Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant on Thursday night.

The event, Pints for North Light, drew huge crowds onto the second floor of the restaurant, packing the space while folks bid on baskets of various goodies and chugged beer and spirits from local breweries.

The organization hosts several events throughout the year, raising about 90 percent of their $1 million budget through charitable events, North Light director Dana Dabek said.

North Light Community Center focuses on providing services requested by the Northwest community. Childcare and emergency management, like utility services and groceries, are among the more popular needs discovered through surveys, focus groups and interviews with community leaders, Dabek said.

“We are one of the organizations that adapts to the needs of the community,” Father Kirk Berlenbach, who works with the organization, said. “One of the main focuses is working with children.”

The center, founded in 1936, began as a boys club and has since continued to work with youth and adolescents to provide programs to keep teens in a safe, stable and stimulating environment.

The 2015 Pints for North Light was the first year the event completely sold out, Debrek noted. “It’s a program that grew organically,” she said.

Going forward, the community center is planning to expand their network of services to include more members of the Northwest Philadelphia community.

“We have a program coming up called ‘Manayunk Meals’ to donate food and meals to homebound seniors,” Berlenbach said.

This story originally appeared on Newsworks.org

On heels of St. Mary’s closure, Manayunk’s St. John the Baptist faced with major building repairs

St. John the Baptist Church in Manayunk, also known as “Manayunk’s Cathedral,” is calling on its parishioners and local community members to help raise $1 million to repair the crumbling façade of the building.

Officials with the church raised concerns over the building’s decaying features, like the steeple and roof, in 2014 and have continued to campaign for more funds to restore the historic site.

“This is about restoring not just a building, but a community,” Monsignor Kevin Lawrence said. “This is a place we look to for a great future.”

The St. John the Baptist parish, which merged with St. Mary of the Assumption Church in July 2012, lost more than $142,000 last fiscal year.

Leaders of the campaign are optimistic about the restoration, but are quick to remind churchgoers that the task ahead is large.

“This is a major capital campaign,” said Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia’s Scott Bucko, who has been charged with leading the campaign. “This is not a ‘second collection’ where you might drop in five dollars.”

The church and social hall will remain open during renovations, Lawrence said. With winter quickly approaching, the church is hoping to complete construction by February.

The $1 million campaign is phase one in a two-part approach to restoring the building. The second phase will look at repairs like fixing stained glass and painting the interior.

Originally published for Newsworks.org

Beekeepers in Northwest Philly look towards sustainability

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doesn’t take a farm to be a beekeeper. Hives are popping up around Philadelphia while beekeepers are forming their own groups to swap tips and normalize backyard beekeeping.

Tanya Veitch is a nurse in East Falls who has been keeping bees for several years. Now she owns Wicked Bee Hollow in East Falls. She found herself interested in beekeeping after seeing an exhibit about chicken farms and self-sustainable lifestyles. She now makes bath products and bottles her goods.

“They look kind of scary, but they’re full of honey and they’re very docile,” she said.

Identifying the right type of bee to hold is crucial, beekeeper and Manayunk resident Wynn Geary said.

Geary, who just graduated from Science Leadership Academy, and his business partner, Max Lawrence, have been working for months to develop a “smart hive” that tests the activity of bees and can, hopefully, explain some reasons behind colony collapse disorder.

Veitch teams up closely with Geary and Lawrence, who work out of Manayunk Farm. The beekeepers even swap hives occasionally — a technique called splits — which give nests a rest and allow other keepers to build on their own hives.

Lawrence has been working on how bees communicate with the waggle dance; a movement that allows bees to indicate different needs to each other.

“The important stuff is the agitation and collection of data… which is not really sexy,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence set up a slew of routers and wires leading into a life-stream of the bees productivity, allowing people to see what happens when a hive is undisturbed by humans draped in bee-repelling space-suit-looking beekeeping gear.

Colony collapse occurs when bees abandon their hives. Geary said climate change and pollution are chief among the reasons why bees flee their hives. He’s hoping learning more about bee communication will bring scientists closer to understanding why colonies collapse so easily.

And while the wooded and spacey parts of Philadelphia seem like the most obvious place to put a hive, it’s something that exists across the city, even in more densely-populated areas.

“There are techniques to keep them from swarming and there are techniques to keep them making honey,” Veitch said.

Originally published for Newsworks.org

Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center features young artist with Asperger’s

Eart on the spectrum Emily Burke, 11, has been an artist since she could pick up a drawing utensil and last month, her art was featured every weekend at the Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center.

The show, named Art on the Spectrum, features artists diagnosed on different levels of the Asperger’s/Autism scale, MRAC Board Member Mike Muir said.

In first grade, Emily was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and now participates in several programs specifically designed to accommodate children with similar conditions.

“She has made leaps and bounds since her diagnosis,” her mother Lauren Burke said. “People with Asperger’s tend to be really good at things.”

And while Burke’s parents notes she prefers to draw animals – especially dragons – she has a very macabre side to her art.

“I’ve always seen some conflict her drawings,” Emily’s father Pat Burke said. “She has cats fighting and wolf fights.”

Emily’s depictions of cats and dogs cover the walls of the MRAC, but as one sifts through prints for sale, more pieces depicting death and bloodstart to appear.

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Pat attributes some of her darker work with an infatuation with zombies, but Emily doesn’t see it that way.

She said she naturally started drawing it and that she likes dragons.

“Something she’s told me [is] she drew something she saw in a dream,” Pat said. “Just the other day she showed me a drawing and said it was a ‘dream dog.'”

While Emily’s art has been co-featured at other shows, the work at MRAC was her first independent showing. Her work took up the majority of the space and was advertised as the main spectacle on MRAC’s website.

A percentage of the show’s proceeds have been donated to the Plymouth Meeting Community Program, a soccer club that meets off-season when TOPSoccer, a national soccer club for children with special needs, does not hold practices and games.

Originally published for Newsworks.org

Manayunk distillery looks to wind back time with a sip of gin

The first thing you notice when you crack a bottle of Liberty Gin open is a strong lemon aroma. Walter Palmer, a Manayunk resident who founded Palmer Distillery just a few blocks from the neighborhood’s Main Street attributes this ingredient to his own preference.

“It really is wonderfully citrus-y,” he said of his gin.

Palmer said his approach is methodical and artisanal, insisting that he doesn’t want to expand to the point of sacrificing the high quality, organic ingredients he imports from around the world.

“From my perspective, a good gin should be pure to exactly what gin is,” Palmer said. “I do have a personal philosophy that everything has a sweet spot, as it should be. Our company motto is ‘as it should be.'”

Palmer spent months researching, trying to identify what made a good, Philadelphia gin before opening up 10 weeks ago.

He found himself looking at the American Revolution, a defining time in American history. And Philadelphia played a big role. He wanted to make a gin as strong and robust as the city he’s working in.

“Generally, the people who were having those thoughts [of revolution] drank,” He said. “They weren’t drunk, but they drank. I mean, they drank a lot. ”

He said he was fascinated with the idea of being able to walk in the steps of the Founding Fathers, holding a drink with the same properties as theirs. His gin is meant to, in a way, wind back time with every sip.

Palmer officially earned his permits and licenses in May and will be moving his product onto a few Pennsylvania liquor store shelves in September. He makes small batches, but has the capacity to distill 220 gallons at a time.

Palmer is also working on a corn whiskey product called Manayunk Moonshine. His plan is to bottle half and barrel half, and maybe sell it in flasks. As tempted as he is to dig into the bourbon business, there are more restrictions involved in that.

“Even if I end up selling gin from New York to D.C., I’ll be perfectly happy,” Palmer said. “My goal is not to be Diageo. I want to be a high quality, craft distillery. I want to use high quality products and make high quality products.”

Palmer Distilling is located at 376 Shurs Lane in Manayunk. If you see a sign that says “free gin tasting” you are welcome to go in for a free shot.

Originally posted on Newsworks.org