by April Lisante
Landscape and lawn design experts, specialty flowers, food, family activities and more await Chestnut Hill visitors this weekend at the Chestnut Hill Home & Garden Stroll.
From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 2, Germantown Avenue will come alive for a strolling street celebration featuring vendors, restaurant fare and music and activities, a post-COVID, hybrid version of the annual Chestnut Hill Home & Garden Festival. The rain date will be May 16.
“I think things are starting to open up,” said Philip Dawson, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Business District. “We wanted to give people a way to have a nice day and explore the neighborhood in a manageable way.”
Though the layout will look different for those used to walking down the center of the trolley-lined Avenue flanked by tents on both sides, Dawson said it is important to stress that this is not a standard street festival.
This new hybrid model of the traditional street-packed, tented spring festival will feature about 50 vendors, rather than the usual 150, and will take place in parking lots up and down the Avenue. Three main lots will be occupied with vendors at 25 W. Highland Ave., 150 E. Evergreen Ave., and alongside 8433 Germantown Ave. Though the number of vendors has been truncated, they will still offer a wide variety of products, from lawn care and landscaping pros to those selling Mother’s Day heirloom varietals and baskets. There will also be handmade furniture, jewelry, art, and clothing on display for sale.
Streets will be open, instead of closed to traffic, and even musical talent booked for the day, including a Zydeco band and the cover band Variable Elements, will perform off-street at the Top of the Hill and down at Mermaid Inn.
“In a way this may be better for the visibility of the businesses,” Dawson said. “The first thing people will see are the businesses, not the tents.”
Organizers say the winter Chestnut Hill on Ice walking family fair at the end of January was such a success, they decided to host the Garden Stroll using much the same model. At the Ice festival, families perused a map and walked up and down the Avenue sipping warm drinks and munching local gourmet foods while enjoying ice sculptures, firepits and activities.
At this spring stroll, visitors will have a map of the area and can walk at leisure from the 8600 block to the 7600 block, finding three lots with vendors along the way. Avenue restaurants from the Top of the Hill’s McNally’s all the way to Cin Cin will be celebrating the day with some type of indoor or outdoor dining, condensed menus or grab-and-go items. Restaurants including the Market at the Fareway, Cake, Campbell’s Place, Iron Hill Brewery and more are participating.
Baker Street Bread Company is apparently bringing back by popular demand its addictive Matterhorn sandwich, which it debuted at Chestnut Hill on Ice, a baguette teeming with raclette cheese, Dijon mustard and cornichons. McNally’s will have its Schmitter on hand, of course
If visitors choose to-go goodies, the hope is that they take the grab-and-go meals and head to one of several nearby parks, like Fountain Plaza, The Water Tower or the Weaver’s Way Backyard, to enjoy an al fresco lunch.
“We are encouraging people to make use of different green areas where they can picnic with their take-away food,” Dawson said.
If you’re looking for a little something extra with lunch, Stateside Vodka will be in the E. Highland Ave. lot for the first time as a vendor at the event.
While you won’t see activities mid-street, organizers have designated the Jenks Elementary School lot as the Kid & Family Zone, where kids can take a $2 train ride, or work on arts and crafts hosted by the local AR Workshop. And for adults, the professionals at nearby Laurel Hill Gardens will offer expert floral advice for passers-by.
Though things will look a little different, the Garden Stroll it is a sure sign that not only is spring here, but that the Hill is returning to a new sort of normal, with the virus lessening and vaccines increasing.
“I think the Chestnut Hill on Ice showed us that a hybrid model can work for our people and our businesses,” Dawson said, adding the city has no plans for big street fairs with thousands of people anytime in the near future. “But people are getting vaccinated, and the virus is [at levels] a third of what it was at Chestnut Hill on Ice.”