My Experience at Feria del Barrio Philadelphia (Hispanic Heritage Month)
To kick off Hispanic Heritage Month in Philadelphia, I spent the day in El Centro de Oro to experience the annual Feria del Barrio: a free street fair in Philly and one of the largest events in the area celebrating many Latin cultures.
The Philly event covered a few blocks along El Bloque de Oro’s N 5th St, beginning at Taller Puertorriqueño and spanning between W Huntingdon and W Somerset St. The street fair featured information tables, games and activities for children, and lots of performances. Highlights from the annual Feria del Barrio included:
1. Feria del Barrio Live performances
There were many musical and traditional dance performances. The Feria del Barrio website posts a schedule of the day’s performances, so we planned our day around the ones we wanted to see.
We arrived while Grupo Muévete (dance) was performing, watched Los Tecuanes (DC Mexican Dance Group) perform the traditional dance of the jaguar, and later, enjoyed salsa music by Anthony Colon — the crowd happily danced in the streets the moment he started singing “Hasta el Sol de Hoy”.
The fair’s performance line up closed with Ballet Folklórico Hermanos Ayala.
This final performance celebrated Bomba, traditional music and dance of Afro-Puerto Rican culture, with origins rooted in the island’s history of African enslavement.
2. healthcare / insurance tables
There were many healthcare and wellness exhibitors. Some tables just offered information packets while others offered interactive activities and prizes. AARP had a health wheel that encouraged a discussion about personal wellness. The topics covered workplace stress reduction, physical activity, and heart health. I won a pair of wooden sunglasses after I spun the health wheel and talked about my solution to work-related stress: sleep.
3. Art projects / community activities
I loved The Clay Studio’s booth because we got to make anything we wanted with clay. I used to take ceramics in high school and looked forward to the throwing wheel weekly — I still have my works!
Revisiting the experience at Feria del Barrio inspired me to look into local ceramics classes again… apparently you can buy class packages at the studio for different levels and activities.
4. Bounce house (Plus more kids activities)
Many children were playing in a large bounce house at the fair. There was also a clown making balloon figures, face painting, arts and crafts, and coloring activities.
5. Artisan vendors
While healthcare tables certainly outnumbered the artisans, I came across a few jewelry and textile vendors that caught my eye. I particularly loved the Friends of the Ixchel Museum booth, which had a live weaving presentation by a Guatemalan woman.
There is no Ixchel museum in Philadelphia, so this booth was spreading awareness about their Guatemala-based museum and non-profit, that celebrates and supports Mayan weaving traditions.
6. Food vendors
I was surprised to see there were few food vendors at the street fair. We saw a Mexican taco stand and little else. That said, the feria was set in the perfect location to find yummy local bites at nearby restaurants.
Along our walk to find food, I embraced my love for limbel (a traditional Puerto Rican icee) by sticking my hand through the front gate of a resident’s porch to pay 50 cents for limbel de coco (fresh coconut icee). It was worth every cent and nostalgic of my own childhood limbel memories in the Bronx.
My bestie got pear limbel (which was super sweet). Then we walked 15-20 minutes from El Bloque de Oro to Freddy and Tony’s on 201 W. Allegheny St.; a top traditional Puerto Rican restaurant with all the delicious staples.
I ate my favorites: pastelillos, alcapurria, maduros, and arroz con gandules. In English, you can roughly describe these as empanadas (yes I realize that’s still Spanish), fried green banana/root filled with beef, sweet plantains, and rice and pigeon peas, respectively.
Note: Not all of these are direct translations so if you are better at describing this in English please leave it in the comments!
Other things to know about Feria del Barrio
When is Feria del Barrio? The festival happens once a year, during Hispanic Heritage Month (September).
Where is Feria del Barrio and how to get there?: Feria del Barrio is at El Bloque de Oro. I directed my Uber to Taller Puertorriqueño, which left me at the perfect spot (since the streets are closed off).
If you want to drive, there was plenty of street parking along surrounding blocks. For public transit, there’s a 47 bus stop at 5th street and Huntingdon.
Who is Feria del Barrio geared toward?: I went to the feria with my best friend. I think it is best fit for families because there was more to do for children, but we saw people of all ages. The performances alone attracted many different age groups.
That said, if more food vendors sign up next time, I could see the younger millennial crowd grow even bigger! Food is always convincing :)
What to bring to Feria del Barrio: Still on the heels of late summer, expect it to be hot — there is no coverage. Bring water, sunglasses, a large hat or umbrella if you have sun sensitivity, and cash for vendors.
If you’ve been to Feria del Barrio or plan on going, let me know!
I personally loved the performances, clay activity, and learning about different Hispanic cultures and traditions. I think anyone who loves Hispanic music and traditions would have a fun time at Feria del Barrio.
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