It’s been nearly two weeks since Campbell Square and the surrounding community has digested Pierogi Fest, and all the feedback that followed it.
While overall the event can be chalked up as a success — more than 10,000 people attended —, there were a couple hiccups.
Melissa Michalczyk, State Street Events founder and owner, the agency that organized the event, responded to criticisms.
“That the lines were long and a couple of the pierogie vendors ran out of pierogies, they sold out. So, people were upset we weren’t prepared for 10,000 people,” she said. “Nobody could have known that, especially with a first-time event. People from Port Richmond said they never saw that many people in Port Richmond.”
Michalczyk equated the large turnout to the favorable weather— forecasts leading up to the event called for rain, but there wasn’t a drop of precipitation during the event — and unsolicited advertisements.
“A lot of radio stations picked us up and we didn’t even know. We were in The Inquirer, we were on Edible Philly, we were in places where we didn’t even advertise, so I think it just went viral and went outside the Philadelphia area,” she said. “Obviously, we’re blessed and so happy the people came out and we’re definitely going to do it next year, but we definitely weren’t expecting that many people.”
For Friends of Campbell Square, it was all hands on deck for the event.
“On Saturday, our volunteers worked tirelessly for nearly 12 hours to make this event happen,” said Brendan Black, president of the group. “It’s inspiring to see neighbors come together to make something like this happen.”
Black ran the Broad Street Run the day after Pierogi Fest. To put in perspective just how busy volunteers were: Based on an app he used, he completed more steps and just as many miles helping out at the event as he did during the run.
For Black, it was well worth it.
“Port Richmond had a different vibe Saturday. I have never seen so many people just walking Allegheny Ave besides church on Sunday,” he said. “While this was meant to be a fundraiser for Campbell Square it seems like the Port Richmond economy as a whole had a blockbuster day. This event wouldn’t have been possible without State Street events. The Friends of Campbell Square are so grateful for State Street.”
The big turnout means a big donation for the friends group: About $3,000 in proceeds will go back to the park, which was one of the ultimate goals.
With the event already confirmed for next year, Michalczyk has some adjustments planned.
“We took all the feedback and it was super important,” she said. “Next year, we’re going to block off Madison and Almond streets and have the food vendors on the street. And, maybe an option to buy tickets for a fast-track line, and all those proceeds will go back to the park.”
Additionally, Michalczyk plans to have at least 20 food vendors.
Even with changes planned and coming up short on pierogies, Michalczyk and the friends group met the initial goals they set out to accomplish.
“It was for businesses to thrive. Tons of businesses on Allegheny Avenue were packed. Donna’s Bar actually ran out of pierogies in-house as well. The neighborhood just came alive,” she said. “A lot more people saw the neighborhood and that was the main focus. The community and the park got acknowledgement.”
Czerw’s Kielbasa was the last man standing.
“They were there until about 6 o’clock serving because John just kept calling at his business and told them to keep rolling pierogies. They just kept rolling pierogies and bringing trays of them. It was amazing he did that. He was not giving up,” Michalczyk said. “At the end of they day, they took a picture saying, ‘We survived Pierogi Fest.’ ”
The community survived, too, and will get another shot to be in the spotlight.
State Street Events will present Polish American Festival in October.
“More food vendors and more Polish culture and heritage is the main thing,” said Michalczyk regarding preparing for the event. “It’s really about bringing out the culture in the neighborhood. We all know Port Richmond is a Polish community, so I think celebrating that is the biggest thing.”
State Street Events will present Port Richmond Polish American Festival on Oct. 5. Location and time TBA. The event will feature vendors, Polish food, Polish folk music, and family entertainment. Part of the proceeds will be donated to Polish American Social Services. For the latest details, visit the Port Richmond Polish American Festival Facebook event page.