An Overview of this Summer’s Pop-Up Programming

A look at how this year’s pop-up programming impacted local communities.

| Cover photo credit: Parks on Tap |

by Krisann Janowitz

This year, Philadelphia has experienced pop-up programming all around the city like never before. Thanks to Philadelphia’s Parks & Recreation Department, many of this programming has occurred in our city’s vibrant parks and recreation centers with attractions like Parks on Tap, Swim Philly, and Movies in the Park. But how effective was our city’s summer pop-up programming? And who did it impact?

Growing up in Northeast Philly, public pools were an essential part of my childhood summers. Even as an adult, summer just doesn’t feel right without going to a pool. Considering the sky-high swim club prices and scarcity of private pools in the city of Philadelphia, it’s easy to see why public pools are so important to city residents. Luckily, according to Philly Mag, Philadelphia has 70 public pools, with a ratio of one pool for every 22,000 residents. That may sound sparse, but compared to New York City’s ratio of one to every 150,000 resident, we are doing great.

So why were some Philly residents turning to so-called  “dumpster pools” this summer? Maybe there’s an indescribable allure to dumpster pools. Or, perhaps an overall lack of awareness of our city’s pool availability led to this. With the advent of activities like Spruce Street Harbor Park and Franklin Square’s mini-golf, our pools have been overshadowed. This past summer, our Parks and Recreation Department decided to change that with Swim Philly.

What exactly is Swim Philly? It’s a Parks & Rec initiative that brought lounges, umbrellas, plants and exciting programming like poolside yoga, aqua Zumba and water aerobics to five public pools across the city. From West Philly to Mt. Airy to the Northeast, Swim Philly’s destinations were intentionally diverse and made an impact on everyone from all walks of life and socio-economic statuses.

Program Coordinator for Aquatics and Ice Rinks at Parks & Rec, Lisa Whittle, told Plan Philly, Parks & Rec hoped “these improvements would bring people from other parts of the city as a destination.” Hence the diverse locations.

How effective was Swim Philly? Parks & Rec is asking participants to take a survey to better answer that question. But for now, Swim Philly’s Instagram says it all and from the looks of that—I’d say it looks pretty effective.

Another pop-up programming initiative, Movies in the Park, brought free movies to residents at 21 locations across Philadelphia. Throughout the summer months, Parks & Rec, in partnership with the Fairmount Park Conservancy, hosted showings of family-friendly movies at various parks and playgrounds with music and games an hour before the movie began. The locations also sold refreshments and the proceeds went to the corresponding “Friends of” parks group.

I took a closer look at Movies in the Park locations with the citywide median income of $37,460 in mind. 42% of the movies were shown in areas where the median income falls below the city average, showing an effort to reach underprivileged communities.

Parks on Tap was another Parks & Rec pop-up programming initiative that began this summer, bringing draught beer and Spruce-Harbor-like flavor to a myriad of parks across the city. The food and drinks at all Parks on Tap events were served through snazzy, mini-food trucks.

pop-up-programming1There is truly nothing like sipping a crisp cup of beer with the wind gently blowing, surrounded by grass, trees, like-minded people and a plethora of dogs. I very much enjoyed attending two of them with my Shih Tzu by my side. That’s part of the fun with outdoor events like beer gardens, you often get to bring your dogs. For dog lovers out there, you understand that means a lot.

While Parks on Tap tended to focus on more affluent communities, (with average beer prices around $6-7 a cup), it was a great way to activate some underutilized spaces in the city like Jefferson Square Park and Mount Pleasant Park & Mansion.

All in all, it is wonderful to see pop-up programming in all areas of the city, reaching a multitude of people from different walks of life. And I’m excited to see what our Parks and Recreation Department will have for us next summer!

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