The easiest way to be in the know.
It’s Friday, April 22. The borough finally decides to close Gay Street. It’s not exactly the will of the people but it will have to do for now and the West Chester Christmas Parade was closer to ending forever than any of us thought. A compromise should bring it back, but it won’t be the same. I have a list of the changes. Plus, the West Chester Film Festival, the great Borough Cleanup, WCU’s farewell to 150 and La Baguette Magique is open again. What a week. Grab a croissant and let’s catch up!
Gay Street decided
I have some good news and I have some less good news. This week West Chester Borough Council finally made a decision on whether or not to close Gay Street for the 2022 summer season, and drum roll please, the answer is yes, it will be closed but weekends only. After weighing several options from not closing it all to closing it 24/7 (the resident preference), Borough Council settled on a compromise. Gay Street will be closed Friday morning through Monday morning from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The compromise won easily 5 to 2 with all seven members expressing support for a more permanent solution. Roadwork being completed by PECO on Market Street and more time to research long-term solutions were the most cited reasons for the half measure this year.
“Planning to do it correctly takes time,” said Councilman Bernie Flynn who voted against the 24/7 closure despite waxing poetically about a more permanent future solution. He compared his vision for a fulltime closure to that of Washington Street in Cape May.
“Planning has to start now,” echoed Council President Michael Stefano who encouraged Council to set up an ad hoc committee quickly to begin investigating and preparing for a more permanent solution that addresses logistical, safety and aesthetic concerns – although not as quickly as this week’s meeting. We’ll have to keep an eye out for that committee and whether it will be open to resident participation next month.
“The Chamber really wants to do everything in our power to make [the Christmas Parade] possible so our request to Council and to the borough is to become a partner.”Katie Walker, President Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce
Christmas parade in peril
When the Christmas parade was canceled last year we were told it was because the decision to return in-person events wasn’t made in enough time to plan such a large event. Which, while I am sure is true in part it was not, we are learning, the full story. Since the start of the pandemic the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce, which puts on West Chester’s Old Fashioned Christmas parade and a myriad of other holiday events in the borough, has been struggling financially. Event cancellations and membership losses hit revenues hard. They have slashed budgets and cut staff and still GWCCC President Katie Walker entered this week’s Borough Council working session with an ultimatum for the borough: partner with us on this event or say goodbye to your beloved Christmas Parade.
Sure, she put it more eloquently than that and was not twirling her waxed mustache while laughing sinisterly but still the message was the same. The Chamber can not, and will not, do this alone. “The Chamber really wants to do everything in our power to make it possible so our request to Council and to the borough is to become a partner with the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce for this event,” she told members of Council.
She then listed a series of (strongly) proposed changes:
- Reduce the number of entries from 80 to 30.
- Skip the high school marching band competition this year and allow only local high schools to participate.
- Reduce the time of the event which was at times close to 3 hours to a third or less of that.
- Move to a volunteer run parade rather than the professionally produced and managed events of the past.
- (And here was her specific ask of the borough) subsidize or sponsor some of the borough event fees as well as the cost of police and public works time to host the event.
She received little resistance from council; most, if not all, were eager to see the borough’s “beloved” parade return.
“When I think of what makes West Chester, West Chester, a handful of events come to mind,” said Councilman Nick Allen. “I think it should be a higher priority of the Borough to foster these events.”
She also received a 50 percent reduction in borough fees and a $20 special event parking fee, revenues of which will help offset the costs of the parade.
Grab the popcorn – the West Chester Film Festival is back!
If you have never been to the West Chester Film Festival, start with the opening night party, advises Victoria Flickinger, WCFF Sponsorship coordinator. There’s the step-and-repeat wall for social sharing, the swag, and the red carpet of a Hollywood event but executed West Chester-style, aka jeans are acceptable. “The filmmakers are coming in. Have a drink. Grab some food and catch your first block,” Victoria suggests. “You’ll get an idea of the festival and you still have a weekend worth of events to enjoy.” Plus, you can ask questions, find the events that suit your interests and gameplan the next two days with neighbors, visitors, film aficionados and novices alike.
The movies which are shown in one or two hour blocks throughout the weekend span genres and polish level from Oscar nominated animated shorts to the first efforts of young filmmakers. “A lot of people think the submissions are all local,” says Victoria, but they are not, over 30 countries are represented this year, nor are they all ametuer. “You’ll see actors you recognize,” she says. They are, however, all short (30 minutes or less). This means you’ll get a chance to see several entries per block spanning a variety of material from intense dramas to comedies, animation, sci-fi and of course, art-experimental. Art-house, not your thing? Victorias says, don’t worry. “If something’s not your fancy, go grab a drink at the [Uptown] bar and come back.”
Because this event is all about having fun.
New this year: Try the Art/Experimental Film Appreciation workshop, Saturday 12:45 pm. The free event includes a panel discussion hosted by WCU Film Studies Professor Victoria Tischio.
Dip your toe: Take in a Pop-up event. Located at venues around town these hour-long viewing sessions include 5-7 films centered around a specific genre. This year choose from sci-fi, horror or animation. Tickets are only $5/person. Buy ahead of time or at the door (room permitting.)
Family friendly: The Family Film Festival takes place 9:30 am Saturday at Uptown and features 11 family-friendly shorts clocking in at a kid-friendly 45 minutes. Kids under 10 are free, all others $5. Coffee and donuts will be provided.
See and be seen: Come to the closing ceremony. Enjoy food from a selection of local restaurants and celebrate with filmmakers as they wait to see if they won a Chester, the Oscar of the WCFF. Plus, all winning selections will be re-aired. A film festival victory lap, if you will.
Early buzz: 191 films from 40 countries were screened for this year’s festival, of those 70 made the cut. Here are the entries generating early buzz: “Fool’s Day,” a dark comedy that “still stands out after the pandemic,” Victoria says. “Maestro,” an Oscar-nominated animated short from France. WCFF regulars will recognize the work of “Garden Party” animators – one of the festival’s most popular entries ever. Also, “Blobsville,” a local favorite, and “Drip,” a two-minute horror film. “There’s a little boy. There’s a hallway,” says Victoria. Don’t say anymore, I already have chills.
The West Chester Film Festival is back for its 16th year after a two-year COVID hiatus.
Stop being a nuisance. At last week’s Public Safety committee meeting Police Chief James Morehead gave his regular monthly update. Each month he breaks out the department’s activities into two categories – Part 1 crimes and Part 2 crimes. First he spoke on Part 1, or serious crimes, which continue to remain below pre-pandemic levels. To date there have been no murders, rapes, robberies or burglaries recorded in the borough. “Burglaries are at an all time low,” the Chief told council members. Part 2 crimes, however, are not. “There were extreme spikes in what we call part 2 or nuisance type crimes,” he said of the March numbers. These include things such as forgery/fraud and public drunkenness.
Stop being a nuisance, part 2. Also this week WHYY reported on an “Anti-LGBTQ” flyer making its way around the West Chester Area School District including being posted anonymously and unrequested at several local apartment complexes. The flyer which is titled “Protect Our Children” alleges WCASD libraries contain more than 80 books with sexually explicit content. It then proceeds to list them. The list includes history books such as “Queer America: LGBT History in the 20th Century” but does not include titles such as James Joyce’s Ulysses or E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime both of which are known to have sexually explicitly scenes, albeit heterosexually explicit scenes. Also on the flyer are a random list of alleged “discoveries” including the false claim the district “spent over $400,000 on critical race theory staff training,”a series of unsubstantiated allegations leveraged at several teachers in the district and the true, but off topic, statement the district lost a “2.8 million lawsuit over the East Goshen Elementary renovation project.” Interestingly, while one would assume the author is supportive of his or her message, no one has come forward to take credit.
Stop being a nuisance, part 3. I don’t know if this was going on elsewhere in the borough but last weekend several kids were spotted running through Everhart park shooting automatic style toy guns at each other. It was unclear if anything was firing from the guns or if the rapid popping was just for effect, but either way TikTok challenges are rarely ever a good idea.
Stop being a nuisance, part 4. Beware there is a reported jury scam going around where someone claiming to be a sergeant with the Chester County Sheriff’s Office calls and claims you did not make your scheduled jury duty appearance and now owe a fine. Do not pay. If you have concerns about the legitimacy of the call, hang up and call the real Chester County Sheriff’s Office to confirm.
High fives to the West Chester’s Little All-American Football Association (LAFA) which is celebrating its 65th season of flag, tackle and cheer. According to an article in the Daily Local, a 66th season is not guaranteed. The legacy football league has seen a more than 40 percent decline in participation over the last five years. The drop off is thought to be a combination of pandemic losses and a reluctance among parents to allow their kids to play tackle football. It could also be due to increased competition. United Sports runs a flag football league at their facility in Downingtown and there is the DubC Flag Football league which plays at East Goshen park – both of which pull young players from the West Chester area. Read more about the state of LAFA here. (Football families article includes info on their Flag for $50 program and several spring/summer clinics being hosted at the local high schools.)
Also, a round of applause to Rustin which was named the 21st best high school in the state according to Niche.com, a school ranking and review site. Henderson came in 37th and East 51st. The rankings are based on a number of factors including academics, culture, diversity, facilities, sports and activities. Which brings me too…
Shout out this week to WCASD Senior Strings. The 37-member ensemble representing East, Henderson and Rustin was selected to perform at this year’s Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) All-State Conference. In addition West Chester will be represented by five individuals – East’s Heather Krebs, Rustin’s Bryce Kelly, and Henderson’s Andrew Pruden, Ryan Hughes and Sam Prochnau. Congratulations to all those selected to represent. We can’t wait to see you on the big stage.
Finally congratulations to Carolyn Comitta, Lillian DeBaptiste and all the West Chester women that made West Chester University’s list of its 150 Most Influential Women. Access to the amazing talent developed at the university has to be one of the main perks (that and the free events) of living in a university town.
In honor of Earth Day, say hello to eco-collaborations. Last week I shared an update on flooding concerns in the borough. This week we learned about a new West Chester University nursery project. A joint endeavor between WCU, West Chester borough and Brandywine Urban Forest Consulting, the goal of the project is to help grow native plants from seedlings for stream restoration projects and street trees. Currently a large part of the borough’s stormwater management plans deal with remediation activities, like the Marshall Drive Stream Restoration project, which are designed to rebuild stream banks and waterways repairing damage caused by rapid runoff.
And while we’re here, say hello to some new trees and flowers. This week 130 trees were planted around West Chester as part of the borough’s spring planting project. Also the Melton Center now has several new boxes ready and waiting for May flowers, thanks to the East football team which got down and dirty at the center last week.
Changing topics, get ready to say, what’s up, to the world of elite streetwear. The first-ever Solely Rich Outdoor Street Sneaker Convention is coming to Church Street on May 7. That’s right for one day only from 12 pm to 5 pm the borough is going to be the height of street fashion. Expect 50 vendors lined up between Market and Gay Streets buying, selling and trading new and vintage foot and streetwear.
Finally, say welcome back to a perfectly baked croissant. That’s right after being closed most of the winter and early spring for renovations, a redesigned La Baguette Magique opened this week. Gone are the dishes and cafe tables, in their place an open expanse with a long counter that showcases the pastries. There are still a few tables and outdoor seating but the idea is to tailor the business to more grab and go – a la the French.
Say goodbye to West Chester University sesquicentennial. This Saturday in conjunction with Alumni weekend West Chester University will officially be wrapping up its 150th year in grand style. Community members are invited to the campus for an afternoon of free music, games, refreshments, and “lots of educational fun.” Check out a performance of Into the Woods; take in an art exhibit; catch 3D modeling in action at the GIS lab or hear live performances from the School of Music and perhaps best of all, taste instant ice cream from the chemistry department. Plus, on Friday night there will be a fireworks show at Farrell Stadium. Check out a full list of events here.
Also, say goodbye to the bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S
Pay it forward.
Clean up, clean up everybody everywhere. West Chester is holding its annual community clean up this Saturday and Sunday. It may be too late to get a clean up kit but it’s not too late to help out. At last notice – South Brandywine, Sharpless, West Union, John O. Green park and Hoopes park had been claimed – but plenty of corners remain. Grab some gloves and a bag and join your neighbors in the great borough pick up.
Blood brothers (and sisters) needed. Once again (or forever), local blood supplies are in desperate need of replenishing. It’s gotten so bad that the Red Cross was forced to declare its first ever “blood crisis” in January after declines in donations caused by the pandemic left stocks severely depleted. But don’t worry, there are several ways to help.
State Senator Carolyn Comitta is hosting a blood drive at the Oscar Lasko YMCA on Chestnut Street from 8 am to 1 pm Visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter sponsor code “Senator Comitta” to register.
Thursday (April 28) the WCASD is hosting a blood drive from 1-6 pm at the West Chester School District Admin Building, Boardroom C, 782 Springdale Rd, Exton. Visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter sponsor code “West Chester School District” to register.
Saturday (April 30) the West Chester NAACP and St. Paul’s Baptist Church are hosting a blood drive from 9:00 am – 2:00 pm at 1 Hagerty Boulevard, West Chester, PA. Register here to participate.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We are going to take advantage of the warm temps to do a little yard work including getting the garden ready for planting. I’ve been trying to figure out how to incorporate this native planting trend in our yard. I’m also going to take the kids over to the West Chester Film Festival’s Family Film Festival- and then I would like to check out the festivities over at West Chester University and we have a birthday party, and the Borough cleanup. It’s going to be one of those weekends that needs its own weekend!
And, don’t forget today is Earth Day. If you have been looking to green your ways, East Goshen is holding a Sustainability Fair on Sunday. Get information on electric vehicles, solar, geothermal, pollinator gardens, composting and more. 12-4 p.m. at the Township Building (1580 Paoli Pike).
Mark your calendars:
- April 22 – Trivia Night, 7-8 p.m. Presented by the West Chester Public Library. This is a free virtual event but registration is required.
- April 22 -24 – Alumni weekend at West Chester University, prepare for a traffic surge especially around campus and downtown.
- April 22 – Carolyn Comitta’s Blood Drive, Oscar Lasko YMCA, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Appointments are encouraged. To schedule your appointment go to redcrossblood.org and enter sponsor code “Senator Comitta”.
- April 22 – WCU Football and Fireworks, John A. Farrell Stadium, 7 p.m. band performances, fireworks start at 9 p.m.
- April 23 – West Chester University’s Sesquicentennial “Wrap Party”, all day, all campus, tour WCU buildings and museums, see a performance of Into the Woods, check out 3D modeling in action at the GIS lab, hear about research being conducted by university professors and students, taste instant ice cream from the chemistry department and much more. All events are free and open to the public.
- April 24 – Sustainability Expo, East Goshen Township Building, 12-4 p.m. exhibits, vendors, seminars, kids events and more.
- April 28 – West Chester School District Blood Drive, West Chester School District Admin Building, 782 Springdale Rd, Exton, PA. 1-6 p.m. Visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter sponsor code “West Chester School District” to register.
- April 29 – Food Truck/Vendor Expo, Fame Fire Company, 4 p.m.
- April 30 – Healthy Kids Day 2022, Oscar Lasko, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
- April 30 – Cornhole & Concert for Charity: Safe Harbor fundraiser, American Helicopter Museum, Tickets $100/entrant; Concert starts at 5 p.m. Food and drink will be available for purchase.
- April 30 – NAACP Blood Drive, 1 Hagerty Boulevard, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Register here to participate.May 1 – Royalty Tea Party with Miss PA & Miss WCU, Oscar Lasko, 1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Registration is required. Event is free to members: $10 for non members. Children are encouraged to attend in their prince or princess finest.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
Oh, one more thing, if you think one or more of your friends would like Hello, West Chester, too, please forward this newsletter and tell them to come join us.
And hey, if you’re that friend? So nice to see you! You can subscribe here.