Manayunk’s signature summer event is back for its sixth year. Here’s what to expect!
By Megan Douress
Photography by JPG Photo & Video (jpgphotography.com)
For the last five summers, al fresco dining, shopping deals, art vendors, and live music were always on the menu every Thursday night in Manayunk. Since 2016, Manayunk has invited residents and guests to come to Main Street for a night of family-friendly fun during Stroll the Street. The weekly series has certainly seen its changes throughout the years – starting with discounted deals in restaurants and shops and growing into a street-closed block party some nights. This May will mark six years of Stroll the Street, and we’re celebrating with a trip down memory lane!
Back in 2003, Philadelphia’s Center City District implemented a summer happy hour program called Center City Sips as a way to keep its commuters in town for a night out with colleagues. The concept was simple – offer extra discounted drinks and appetizers during happy hour in the middle of the week and customers will stay for dinner.
Flash forward to 2016. Center City Sips was booming, and residents of Manayunk were now taking their weeknight plans downtown. A group of Manayunk’s restaurateurs were inspired by the weeknight program and got together to brainstorm a way of doing their own local version of Sips – one that would encourage Manayunk’s demographic of young families to come to Main Street for a night out during the week. With the help of Manayunk Development Corporation (MDC) staff and a liquor sponsor, Stroll the Street was born.
At first, Stroll the Street was a much simpler concept. It was happy hour, but the best happy hour deals of the week. On top of that, Manayunk’s shops and boutiques would also offer discounts during the 5-8 p.m. hours, including sidewalk sales to encourage perusing and end of season shopping. To expand the excitement of Thursday nights even further, MDC added another layer – art vendors and food trucks that would line Main Street’s sidewalks.
The summer of 2016 was filled with families spending their Thursday nights on Main Street. Towards the end of the summer, select theme nights were added, most notably Pokémon Go Night and S’mores Night. The themed nights were wildly popular and by the end of the summer, MDC staff had already started planning for the next year – a year that would consist of themed vendors and activities.
In an effort to encourage more of Manayunk’s local families to continue staying in town and get to know their neighbors, Stroll the Street became much more than a weekly happy hour and a handful of vendors. The 100 block of Cotton Street was shut down to host theme nights like Pet Night, Fitness Night, and of course, Movie Nights. Both vendors from throughout the Philadelphia region and our very own local merchants would set up shop for the night to sell products and promote their services while guests interacted with adoptable dogs, played games, and participated in free fitness classes.
Stroll the Street only continued to grow from there. In 2018, Canal View Park became a second activation site to encourage guests to truly stroll the street every Thursday. Vendors who didn’t fit the weekly theme tended to set up shop there – those who sold handmade plant holders, candles, and more, in addition to a tented food vendor. In 2019, Main and Pensdale Streets became yet another activation site for food, activities, and live music.
Stroll the Street had gradually gained momentum over the first four years, but 2020 brought its challenges for what once was a way for people to gather in the summer. Stroll the Street reverted to its 2016 model – happy hour deals, sidewalk sales, and art vendors set up on the sidewalks along Main Street. This year will look similar with weekly deals at bars and restaurants, seasonal sales at shops and boutiques, vendors set up at several areas along Main Street, and a weekly music lineup in Canal View Park. In addition, live art will be on the street most Thursday nights with artists lined up to do a crochet installation, ribbon cuttings of new public art, and the return of the rainbow umbrellas on Gay Street.
So grab your family (and your mask!) and come stroll the street with us this summer every Thursday night May through September from 5-8 p.m. in Manayunk!