On the Pope Festival Trail…Without the Pope

Like most South Philadelphians who didn’t get Festival tickets or flee to the shore,  we’ll be home clutching our parking spots this weekend.

But before our Broad Street Subway entrance closes — and the security checkpoints click in around the “Secure Event Perimeter” (aka the “Pope Francis Festival Grounds”) —  we headed to the Parkway on Wednesday evening to check out the preparations…


  15_09_25 00 Banner_6640   15_09_25 01 Visitors DC_9971(One of the hundreds of banners lining the route from city hall to the art museum.  And, yes, these World Meeting of Families visitors were noshing on Subway sandwiches by the fountain.)


So what was there to see between city hall and the art museum?  A solid mile of metal barriers…hundreds of identical food tents, with soda already in the refrigerator cases…walls of WaWa water pallets (they reportedly donated 1,000,000 bottles)…piles of folding tables and chairs…40 Jumbotron supports…metal scaffolding with rough wooden shacks on top (for press studios, among other things)…smiling out-of-town pilgrims with World Meeting tags around their necks and clear plastic backpacks…Philadelphia mounted police (I haven’t seen those since I moved away in the ’70s)…a reported 3,000 port-a-potties (apologies to people hosting events anywhere else on the continent this week)…strangely undersized cardboard trash and recycling cans…banks of portable urinals (barely, as it were, hidden behind portable screens)…and rows of plastic sinks…

  15_09_25 02 Franklin Inst CM_6642(Anticipation: Visitors pour from the Franklin Institute’s “Vatican Splendors” exhibit…)

15_09_25 03 Sinks CM_6767(By Saturday, the Parkway museums will be closed, and those little blue sheds and sinks will be open for, uhm, business.)

15_09_25 04 Barriers CM_6673   15_09_25 05 Tow Sign CM_6654(“Where is everyone?” A Parkway parking kiosk awaits donors behind rows and rows – and rows – of barriers.)


And, yes, those blocks and blocks of white food tents were identically set up with Blue Bunny ice cream coolers, already stocked Coca-Cola cases, and identical covered pans and trays.

15_09_25 06 Food Tents CM_6689   (Pepsi drinkers, stock your coolers:   It’s a Coca-Cola world out there.)

   15_09_25 07 Chairs CM_6683(Arm-wrestle you for a seat?)

15_09_25 08 Brand New CM_6675(And, yes, that sign describes the building, not the portable johns, but visiting pilgrims can only hope…)


15_09_25 09 Art Museum CM_6724(A far-off preview of the stage…

15_09_25 10 Art Museum CM_6724 (2)

…and the supports for one of the 40 Jumbotrons that will provide most pilgrims’ view.)

15_09_25 11 Press Boxes Back CM_6703

(Front and center on the Parkway is the place to stand to avoid this view.)

15_09_25 12 Press Boxes Front CM_6705

(A look at the scaffolding and the unlovely sheds that will serve as media headquarters. And, yes, you can see some of the 1,000,000 water bottles donated by WaWa in front.

        15_09_25 13 Rodin Sign CM_6718   15_09_25 14 Thinker CM_6719

(The Thinker will have a lot more to think about this weekend, including keeping his front yard clean.)


15_09_25 15 Mounted Police DC_0002(Mounted police pass the city building at 1515 Arch Street, while a news truck from WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh scouts for early stories.)

Heading to the subway,  Dave caught the perfect summary photo:  The moon,  a street light,  city hall,  the PNB building,  an inspirational banner of the Pope sponsored by Discount Tire.   What more could you want?

City Hall, PNB Building, Philadelphia


So yes, we can now say we’ve been to the Festival – and returned home to an unmistakably South Philadelphia greeting at Francoluigi’s on 13th and Tasker Streets:

15_09_25 17 Francoluigi CM_6983

And, yes, that’s the same Francoluigi’s whose opera-singing owner was profiled in this week’s Inquirer.  Only in Philadelphia….

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