Pokémon GO? More like Pokémon STOP. Philly Free Streets 2017

(Oh, hey there. You might be wondering “Why hasn’t Jordan written anything since August?” Feel free to scroll down to the end of this post for the answer to that.)

But maybe you’re just here because you wanna know about Philly Free Streets this year. In that case, read on.

I was pumped for this year’s event. I even wrote a feature about this year’s Philly Free Streets over on Fitt Philly. I’d checked my bike tires, woke up early (well, for a Saturday), suited up, and rode over with my pal Sammy. We were hype to take a power walk with Mayor Jim Kenney before riding our bikes along the 3.5 mile route.

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The kickoff schedule

Best laid plans, amirite?

The hour of 9 came and went, and then so did 9:30. We actually stuck it out until 9:40 before deciding it was time to get busy living, but this was an inauspicious start…

Let’s break it down a little bit:

THE GOOD

Free Streets – not much can be bad about that, right? The weather was crisp and wonderful, there were different city groups and services out doing demos, offering goodies, and beautifying spaces.

I really loved the Pedestrian Plaza by the Al Aqsa Islamic Society, Parks & Rec, and Mural Arts Philadelphia – adirondack chairs, chalk, lots of conversations and connections.

People brought their A-game for riding (loved this skeleton from the Kidical Mass ride, and penny-farthing in blue – snaps to this guy for balance!)

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There was an area at the end of the route, El Centro de Oro in the Fairhill neighborhood that I can almost guarantee I never would’ve explored otherwise. I jumped into a Zumba dance class with strangers. I helped paint a mural. It was wonderful.

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Shoutout to Mural Arts!

 

THE BAD

Two words:

Pokémon

GO.

This app was released in summer 2016. I vaguely remember some friends and peers getting obsessed, and then losing steam & interest, and then never discussing it again. Flash in the pan, right?

Wrong.

Pokémon GO’s creators, Niantic, Inc., partnered with Philly Free Streets for an epic Pokémon GO integration along the route. And, up until about two weeks before the event, this was the ONLY information available on the PFS “Program Details” Page. Neverthless, I was shocked at the sheer volume of Pokémon GO players, teams, swag, etc that clogged the event. People were walking around armed with maps, portable chargers, wearing Pokémon swag, and meeting up with their “teammates” from around the country. The event was listed on the Niantic, Inc. website, and considering the game still has about 65 million active monthly users, that brought folks from far and wide.

Being on a bike during the 3 hours that I was out at the event was incredibly challenging, as clusters of players would stop in the middle of the streets, intently staring at their phones, enjoying this augmented reality. They wouldn’t look up, they rarely reacted to calls of “on your left” and it felt dangerous.

 

 

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Thanks to @joey4017 for this shot of folks glued to their phones, catching them all.

I don’t know if there was some sort of benefit the city got from this Pokémon partnership, but as someone trying to enjoy the event without the app, it was painful. I almost think I would’ve been supportive of cutting my “free streets” time down by an hour and giving these Poké-people an hour all to themselves, if it meant they weren’t clustering in the streets for the other 4 hours.

THE UGLY

Trash trucks – not vehicles that I spend much time around on a regular basis, but I respect the hell out of them. They keep our streets cleaner than several other cities I have visited.

Unfortunately, they served as the barrier between the (mostly) free streets. The new route was not TRULY a car-free 3.5 miles, as the north-south path crossed several major intersections that were not shut down. Good for traffic, but also challenging as a rider, a walker, and for anyone with strollers. The space they left on the road was about 2 people wide on either side, so there was a lot of stop and go along the way.

They were smelly, which I guess is the nature of trash cans, but it’s worth noting the aroma of garbage is what my mind recalls when thinking of sensory experiences at Free Streets.

Final thoughts

Did I have fun? Sure.

Could it be improved? Well, what event couldn’t.

Full disclosure: I am on the planning team for Dîner en Blanc Philadelphia and we spend at least a month following each event reviewing what went wrong, right, and what we could do better, and several months leading up to the next one reviewing those same issues.

But this Pokémon thing REALLY tainted the vibe of Philly Free Streets to me. I thought this year was supposed to be all about connecting neighborhoods (last year’s was mostly along South Street, connecting pretty much the same folks that go to all the summer festivals already). And, to an extent, I felt some of that. But mostly I felt like I was imposing on a Pokémon GO convention with the occasional table for IndeGo or the Philly Water Department.

Here’s hoping that some good times this year turn into better ones next year.

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****UPDATE: I have actually been writing more than ever. Someone just decided that I could make a part-time gig out of it…. I’ve been channeling many of my words and social time to Fitt Philadelphia, so if you’re ever wondering what fitness events you should do each month, or when the new megaformer studio is opening, or where to find the most innovative workout spots in the city, I’d recommend hopping over there. ****

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Philly Beer Week 2017 – 10 Events You Can’t Miss!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year….

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Philly Beer Week – There’s nothing quite like it. And, with ten days (or less, who knows when you’re reading this) until Opening Tap, the city’s beer bars, reps, and drinkers alike are gearing up for Christmas in June.

2017 marks the 10th Year of this 10 Day Beer Bonanza (“week” is a relative term, right?) and I’m pretty sure that folks are pulling out all the stops to make it the most memorable year to-date. As I did before in 2015 (missed most of last year due to a poorly timed Whole 30), I spent an unreasonable amount of time poring over the lineup of events. I recognize that not all the events are released yet, but I think enough are out that I’ve crafted a pretty dynamite list.

I wouldn’t recommend attending all 10 of them. But, if you do, best of luck to you and your liver.

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May the odds be ever in your favor…

  1. For the person who takes Thursday off… The Hammer of Glory Relay – June 1st, ALL DAY
    For $10, you can hop a seat on a double decker bus and follow the iconic HoG (Hammer of Glory) throughout the city, watching as it passes from spot to spot using themed vehicles, roller derby gals, weird man-powered machines, and ridiculous costumes. Most of the stops, coincidentally, are bars, so if day-drinking is your thing, you can’t start the “week” off any better.
  2. For the one that likes to run for fun… Red Owl Tavern / Founders Brewing Almost 3k – June 3rd, 10am18527242_1358343947548692_3634553842382043062_o.jpg

    Y’all. 3k… that’s not even 2 miles, so no excuses. $30 gets you your first beer, your last beer, a glass, and a t-shirt. PLUS FITNESS! The run is around Independence Mall, and you’ll be hanging before (and hopefully after) at Red Owl Tavern sipping on tasty Founders brews. The ideal way to start your PBW Weekend!

  3. For the one who loves Sunday Funday… Poppin’ Wheelies and Doing the Hula June 4th, 12pm-7pm 

    Two parter – Part 1 – Noon, get some hair of the dog whilst at Drury Beer Garden for some epic Big Wheel Races in the back. Or just laugh and laugh while sipping Evil Genius offerings.
    51PQ9835YGL.jpgPart 2 – 3pm Head just a few feet over to Tiki for an all-male hula contest. Just try to keep your 2SP beers down as these hairy, bearded brutes shake their groove things…

  4. For the nerds who love brews and views… Raven Society Rooftop Biergarten with Sam from Dogfish Head, June 6th, 6-9pmScreen Shot 2017-05-23 at 2.25.05 PM.png

    The Dogfish Head will be flowing, Sam Calagione (founder and owner of Dogfish Head and recent James Beard Award recipient) will be speaking, and the sun will be setting. This will likely be one of the most Instagrammable events… Just saying.

  5. For the one who never wakes up early enough for brunch… Breakfast for Dinner with Rob from Allagash – Jose Pistola’s, 9pm-midnight 

    If you’re like me, you might prefer your eggs served alongside kegs. And if you’re NOT like me, you’re not really a morning person. Head over to Jose Pistola’s to have your (pan)cake and drink beer, too.

  6. For the karaoke all-star… LIVE-Band Karaoke at Johnny Brenda’s with Yards! June 8th, 8:30pm
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    Yeah, I’m sure you’ve done karaoke. But have you ever done karaoke with a live full band?! Let the Yards brews give you the liquid courage you need.
  7. For the Mrs. Doubtfire fan… Left Hand Brewing’s PBW Drag Show Taproom on 19th, June 8th – 8-11pm
    Taproom on 19th is known for their burgers and beer year-round, so you can be sure that the draft list is going to be incredible when they’re highlighting Left Hand Brewing. But, let’s be honest, you’re not just coming for the drinks.18274940_1368095863272820_3503969321176695260_n.jpg
  8. For the one that still can’t stop singing “I’m on a Boat“… Beers & Boats at Bartram’s Garden June 8th, 4-8pm
    This is always a crowd pleaser AND has been known to sell-out, so get your tickets fast! $15 gets you a 30-minute kayak rental & your first beer. PLUS, on the Schuylkill, you can sing as loudly as you want (important if you’ve already indulged in a beer or two…) Don’t worry, lifejackets are mandatory!
  9. For the Picasso of Pilsners, or the Kahlo of Kolsch… PBW: The Art of Beer at Frankford Hall, June 6th, 7-9pm
    A picture’s worth a thousand words, but that art on bottles and cans… that’s priceless. This event is a panel discussion on beer label design featuring the artists behind Tröegs Independent Brewing Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company, Hill Farmstead Brewery, MikkellerForest & Main Brewing Company and Highway Manor Brewing! Edutainment at it’s finest.
  10. For the grand finale… Tailgate Olympics at Devil’s Den, June 10th, 12pm-6pm
    No better way to kick off the last weekend of PBW 2017 than with games galore. Giant Beer Pong, Washers, Huge Jenga, & Cornhole to name a few… Bring out your inner jock and soak up the Saturday sunshine with your friends from Free Will, Yards, Evil Genius, 2SP, and Weyerbacher!

There are TONS of events this year, really with something for everyone. Whether you’re a foodie, in it for the games (keep your eyes out for the goldfish and turtle races), a sweet-tooth, or looking for super rare brews… You’ll have a harder time not having fun during the first 10 days of June than you will finding a beer-focused way to spend your days!