It probably has much to do with the exodus of college students to their respective hometowns. The families who pack up each weekend and head to the beaches and the countless vacations that wisk residents away like waves to distant shores. What is left is a Borough that can feel eerily quiet at times, yet full of promise – like getting left alone in an empty house.
Summer in West Chester is all about stopping to smell the roses. It’s about outdoor concerts, movies by moonlight, and lounging in the street. It’s about splash parks, music festivals, and bumping into neighbors at the West Chester Grower’s Market or your favorite swimming hole.
So, who’s ready for summer?
Summer 2023 Highlights
Gay Street Open Air Market Returns for Its Fourth Year
The four blocks of Gay Street from Matlack to New will again close to traffic on weekends beginning on May 5. Barricades will be placed on Friday mornings and removed on Monday mornings. During this time, traffic will be redirected to Chestnut Street.
While there has been a lot of discussion over the last year around what a more permanent closure could look like, not much new is in the works for 2023. This is not necessarily a bad thing, seeing the current plan to add gates at each of the street’s four intersections has received a lukewarm response from residents.
The Borough has, however, made progress with PennDOT and Gay Street is now officially under Borough jurisdiction. With this new authority in hand, the Borough is able to open and close the street without first securing state approval leading to this year’s extended closure period which will run through the end of October.
Look for fun extras on the closed street this summer, from live music to yoga in the street and even drum and ukelele circles for you to participate in.
Music Will Once Again Headline the Summer
Since the closure of the Note in 2014, West Chester has been on-again, off-again criticized for its lack of a music scene. While that argument may hold weight most of the year, it can no longer be claimed during the summer months. This summer West Chester will host no less than four independent music festival events, all showcasing local musical talents. In addition to the OG Turks Head Music Festival, which is on its 40th(!) festival, 2023 will also see the return of Porchfest, World Music Day, and the Look Around Festival.
Parks Are the Places to Be
Not only is all that grass a perfect place to through the frisbee or grab a few rays, but West Chester parks get extra attention during the summer when they become home to a series of family-friendly events. In both May and August, the Borough’s Park and Recreation Department will host a Movie Night in the park. These family-friendly features begin at dusk. The first one is scheduled for May 19 and will be held at Marshall Square Park. The second one will be at Bayard Rustin Park in August. The Park and Rec department will also host a 4-park concert series beginning in May. Concerts will be held once a month at rotating parks. Performances start at 6:30 p.m. In addition, Marshall Square Park hosts its own popular summer concert series (see more on that below) and Everhart Park is hosting a Yoga in the Park class on Saturday mornings throughout May. With the exception of yoga, all the events the Borough has planned in the parks are free.
West Chester Children’s Business Fair – May 20: Stocked entirely with the wares of kids, the West Chester Children’s Business Fair returns on May 20 at the 44 W. Plaza on the corner of Church and Gay Streets. The fair encourages kids to work through all the pieces of starting a small business from inception to design, production, pricing, and promotion. Come out from 9 a.m. to noon, browse the booths, get inspired by all the creative kids out there, and maybe even score a little something for yourself.
Porchfest – May 20: Now in its second year, Porchfest organizers have confirmed 74 bands will play on more than 50 porches in the Borough’s southwest quadrant. Acts range in style from psychedelic rock to opera, garage punk to folk rock, and country to house music. Music is planned from 1 – 7 p.m. with each musician or group playing for 45 minutes. You are welcome to bring a chair or blanket to your destination, or some homeowners may even have chairs set up for you. There will also be food trucks, information tables, dance performances, and a children’s area. Maps, available online and posted around the performance area, will show where and when bands are scheduled and how to find the other activities.
Fun fact: The original Porchfest was held in Ithaca, NY, in 2007 to showcase local musical talent.
Chester County Studio Tour – May 20, 21: Get an inside look at Chester County artists at work during the annual studio art tour. The self-guided tour will take you to visit artists all across the county if you let it, but with 31 West Chester stops, there is really no reason to leave the area. I did it last year with my four-year-old and it really was a fun, no-pressure way to meet some of the area’s artists and see the spaces that inspire them.
Turks Head Music Festival – June 4: Last year, the Borough moved the Turk’s Head Music Festival from the height of summer heat to early June. The change made all the difference. Turk’s Head saw its largest audience in years. West Chester’s hoping to grow things even more in this, the concert’s 40th year. There will be two stages, seven local bands, and a fair with nearly 70 artist and vendor booths. Grab your blankets, your chairs, and your tye-dye, and mark your calendar for June 4. Music is scheduled from 12 to 7 p.m.
First Friday Summer Concert Series – June 2, July 7, Aug. 4: In support of the closure and to draw more people downtown, West Chester’s Business Improvement District (BID) is planning a Summer Concert Series that will take place on the First Friday of the month. Enjoy live performances from the old Courthouse, free street-level parking after 5 p.m., and fun extras like complimentary face painting.
World Music Day – June 21: Last year it was known as “Fete de la Musique,” but the French was apparently too much for us, so this year the BID is bringing it back as “World Music Day.” Whatever you call it, the worldwide busking festival invites local musicians to play on street corners around the globe in a celebration of local arts. The West Chester version had musicians set up on corners and in front of shops along Gay and Market Streets. The festival, which times with the Summer Solstice, is planned for June 21 from 12 – 9 p.m.
Yoga in the Street – June 3, 10 and 17 and Aug. 5, 10, and 19: During the middle of last summer, the BID started hosting yoga sessions Saturday mornings on Gay Street. It was such as success they are bringing it back this summer. Classes will be held every Saturday in June and August – there are currently no classes scheduled for July. If you would like to participate, meet in front of the post office with your yoga mat, some water, and a $5 bill. You don’t need to register, but you will need cash. Triple Threat Fitness will lead the class.
Introducing Music at Marshall: Watch the Video!
Music at Marshall Concert Series: Marshall Square Park’s popular concerts on the gazebo series will host four dates this year beginning on June 15 with seasonal favorite the Sin Brothers. Over the years, the series has grown from a neighborhood potluck to a Borough-wide get-together. I spoke with title sponsor COCOON’s Angela Payson about why she and her husband decided to get involved and what’s next for the concert series.
HWC: How did your family get involved with the Marshall Square Park – Music at Marshall series?
Angela: We moved to the borough right as the pandemic hit when it was hard to meet people. We wanted to connect with our neighbors and the community in general so I reached out to the Jeff Beitel, President of the Friends of Marshall Square Park and learned that the Music at Marshall Summer Concert Series was one of their biggest fundraisers. I knew that I wanted to get involved and I approached FMSP with the idea of adding food trucks to the event. A lot of local restaurants and chefs were impacted by the COVID shutdowns, and I thought this would be a great way to refamiliarize the community with the delicious food we have available right here in our backyard – literally!
HWC: What is your favorite part about the concert series?
Angela: My favorite part about the concert series is being able to interact with the community. This event brings so much joy to so many people and we’ve really enjoyed seeing it grow over the past 2 years.
HWC: As a sponsor, what are your goals for the concert series?
Angela: As a committee member our goal is to keep the event fresh and fun! We have some very talented performers lined up for this year, as well as some amazing local food trucks. We still have some ideas up our sleeves and I can’t wait to see how this event grows and evolves over the coming years.
As a sponsor, we hope that the community has become more and more familiar with COCOON. Whether you’re looking to remodel your home – or you’re just a big fan of our t-shirts – we hope your experience in the park with COCOON was, and always will be, positive and memorable.
Goshen County Fair – July 31 – Aug. 5: Held the last days of July through the first week of August since 1950, the Goshen Country Fair is everything you’d want a country fair to be. There are livestock competitions, baking blue ribbons, tug-of-war, and dunk tanks. There is a procession of live bands playing to a rotating spray of people, some of whom are dancing, while carnival rides whirl in the background and the sun dips below the horizon. Festivities begin daily at 6 p.m., 5 p.m. on Saturday, and run until 10 p.m. View their website for a nightly lineup of events.
Night Out Against Crime – Aug. 1: In August 2013, West Chester’s Night Out Against Crime began to promote community involvement in crime prevention activities and build police-community partnerships. Now a decade later, the event continues on the Henderson high school campus with games, a dunk tank, and lots of large vehicles for kids to tour. Also look for your favorite police, fire, and EMT personnel onsite and ready to shake hands or pose for pictures. Activities are planned for Aug. 1 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Note: For those looking for info on the Touch a Truck event, last year West Chester’s Park and Rec and WCPD decided to combine events. So, if you have a kid that would like to check out some large machinery, NOAC is the way to go.
Look Around Music and Arts Festival – Aug. 26: Started by local musician Nikki DiGiorgio of onyx&honey, the Look Around Music & Arts Festival began last year as a way to raise awareness of the local arts scene. The all-day grassroots event continues this year as a way to give local creatives a platform to raise the community’s artistic awareness (aka – show their stuff) – and for locals to enjoy good music with an ice-cold beer in hand. Hang out for the day and enjoy live music, local vendors, a cash-prize costume contest, food trucks, culture, networking, and more at this all-ages event. The concert will be held on the grounds of Moose Lodge #908 – 401 W. Washington Street. Music is planned for Saturday, Aug. 26 from 12 – 9 p.m.
A very special thank you to COCOON for their support of not only this guide but of events in West Chester. In addition to sponsoring the Music at Marshall series, they have donated to Porchfest, the Children’s Business Fair, the West Chester Christmas Parade, and Santa at the Square.
Hello, West Chester! We are COCOON and we also call West Chester home. (You might have driven by our Design Studio on West Chester Pike.) If you didn’t know, we remodel homes – and we do our best to make remodeling as stress-free as possible. If you’re thinking about remodeling, reach out to us! We’d love to help you explore your options!