Wafts of cigar smoke mingled with the scent of roasting sausages and aromatherapy candles. Italian flags bedecked cupcakes, canolis and sparkled-on painted faces. Undeterred by a drizzle, children danced with bubbles in front of a display of Mexican wrestling masks. Vendors hawked tamales and pina coladas next to Challah French toast, mango lassis, Peroni beer and limoncello liqueur. Stalls had on sale handmade jewelry, local paintings and bonsai trees.
Such was the scene for two days this weekend at the South 9th Street Italian Market Festival in South Philadelphia.
The nation’s oldest continuous outdoor market was established by Italian immigrants in the late 19th century. Over the past two decades, a growing number of Mexican and Asian immigrants to the area has added some diversity to the businesses at the market, which stretches down about seven vendor-lined blocks from Christian to Federal streets.
Now that there are as many taco joints as there are cheese and ravioli shops at the Italian Market, some commentators in local media have asked if it’s time to change the name. Others say leave it as it is — history is history, and we haven’t stopped calling Germantown by its old moniker, have we?
The surrounding neighborhoods, among which include prime Philly real estate enclaves like Bella Vista and Passyunk Square, have also attracted a number of young professional families. The mix of both newcomers and old-timers was on full display Saturday and Sunday, creating a veritable street ballet that many of us love to write about but don’t always see firsthand.
Gallery: South 9th Street Italian Market Festival
All photos by Allyn Gaestel
Allyn Gaestel is currently a Philadelphia Fellow for Next City. Much of her work centers on human rights, inequality and gender. She has worked in Haiti, India, Nepal, Mali, Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Bahamas for outlets including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Los Angeles Times, Reuters, CNN and Al Jazeera. She tweets @allyngaestel.