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It’s Friday, Oct. 13, 2023: Outfest returns. After a burst of “concerned” emails and social posts forced the event inside last year, organizers are ready to take back to the street with a day filled with inclusive entertainment – and spoiler – no hate mail this year! A look at what is planned and how we got here. Plus, the roads are finally (I mean it this time) getting paved, a West Chester University professor is let go after a student comes forward with the details of their relationship, and I discover a new dubious West Chester distinction. Fun.
Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
Outfest Tries Again
Editor’s note: With storms in the forecast for much of Saturday, organizers made the call to move the event inside. The entertainment schedule remains the same performances will just take place inside at Artillery Brewing.
Last year the West Chester Business Improvement District had a great idea. They would hold a street festival in honor of National Coming Out Day, on October 11, and show the business community’s support for the local LGBTQ community. “The whole point of the event,” said West Chester Business Improvement District Executive Director John O’Brien told me last year, “was to bring joy to the Borough.”
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned.
Volunteer and sponsorship support were slow to build and then word got out that the event included live drag performances. Opponents took to their keyboards and rattled off a number of “concerned” emails to local officials. The outdoor event was canceled. Allies rallied and things eventually settled into what was generally considered a positive, inclusive event inside the Chester County History Center with a subsequent march to the Courthouse. It was a nice day. Just not at all what was intended.
This year the event is coming back with new leadership and a mission to accomplish what it started – a street festival in West Chester in support of the LGBTQ community. To help, the LGBTQ Equality Alliance of Chester County has offered to take the lead, hoping to make Outfest their signature fall event. With them, they bring a lot of advantages, including a built-in network of volunteers, a 501c3 status helpful for fundraising, and years of event experience.
“We’re hoping to leverage the success we’ve had with Pride [celebrations] in Phoenixville for so many years,” said Alliance President Carrie Stare.
This year organizers expect to have about 30 vendors set up along Gay and Church Streets. There will be county organizations, local businesses, LGBTQ artists, and a kid section with a face painter.
“It’s our first year outside. It’s a little smaller than we hope it grows into being,” said Carrie, who would like to see business support amplified at future festivals. “For the queer community, it’s really important for the businesses to show up,” she said. “The queer community is going to support the businesses that support this community.”
That is not to say there is still not plenty going on. There will be a full slate of performances beginning at noon and running until 5 p.m. And, I know what you are going to ask… Yes, the drag queens are coming back. And new this year is the crowning of 2024 Miss Chester County Pride.
Is Carrie worried about having drag queens perform at an event where kids are welcome? No. No, she is not.
“The great thing about our local queens is they know how to read the audience. They are going to put on a family-friendly event,” she said. Note: There will be an after-party at Artillery Brewing for all you adults out there.
So, what about those haters from last year? I asked Carrie if her group had received any communications asking that they cancel the event – or once again, move it inside.
“We haven’t heard a peep this year,” said Carrie, and according to her, neither has the Borough. “Everyone we talked to had a fabulous reaction and were excited to see it coming back,” she said.
Still, there will be security on hand on Saturday but she is expecting little in the way of a disturbance.
“We just want to have fun. Come out, learn about the LGBTQ community, and support the local vendors that support us. We welcome everybody, ” she said.
Outfest, Saturday, 12 – 5 p.m. Enjoy vendor booths, a children’s center a,nd five hours of live entertainment. The after party is at Artillery Brewing. Outfest is a rain or shine event – unless there’s a monsoon or a hurricane – then check social.
West Chester LGBTQ Community Loses an Ally
Last week, Split Rail Tavern announced it was closing after eight years. The loss was felt by many in the community (don’t believe me? Check out the thank you highlights.) Regulars saw it as much about the “people” as the “place,” or as the Drunks of West Chester put it, “Split Rail was a home for us townies, a safe space from the college bar chaos.” It was also a welcoming place for the local LGBTQ community.
Despite the controversy, Split Rail hosted last year’s Outfest after-party. Until it closed it was scheduled to do so again this year. And each Tuesday for the last eight years, Split Rail hosted “Off the Rail” Karaoke – a weekly karaoke event led by local drag queens Anita Fixx, Roxanne Rohls, and Ophelia Hotass.
“Drag night was special,” Anita wrote on Instagram. “Tuesday night was a night where we could all be ourselves without judgment or fear.”
The More You Know: West Chester Home to the Youngest Soldier to Die in the Civil War
This summer, former Downingtown Eagle Scout Brendan Lyons wrote a book, Charley: The True Story of the Youngest Soldier to Die in the American Civil War. Charley King was a drummer boy who lived on Barnard Street and marched with the 49th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment.
According to the description provided by Brendan, “The story begins in West Chester, on Charley’s 12th birthday, a few weeks before the start of the Civil War. States have already begun seceding from the Union and even the children of West Chester know that war is coming soon. Charley, a young musician, leads the neighborhood children in marching around town. His parents, of course, are hesitant to allow him to go to war, but he is persistent. They are finally convinced by a neighbor, Benjamin Sweeney, who is forming Company F in the area to join the 49th Pennsylvania Infantry. Sweeney promises to watch over Charley and the Kings agree to allow their son to enlist.”
Not to give too much away but things pretty much go downhill from there for Charley. While based on a true story, many of the specific details have been lost to history leaving Brendan to piece together the likely circumstances as best he could. Still, he felt Charley’s an important story to tell.
“I think a key lesson of the book is that Charley was, in many ways, a symbol of the country itself – young at the time in its existence as a nation, idealistic whether for better or worse and placed in a precarious position with devastating ramifications. His story is one we should all consider when we hear others call for violence against our political rivals. Just or unjust, war is always destructive,” said Brendan.
Want to know more about this dubious distinction? Charley: The True Story of the Youngest Soldier to Die in the American Civil War is available for purchase on Amazon.
Thefts are up in the Borough. According to the October West Chester Police report, thefts are up more than twenty percent over this time last year. This is the second month in a row the Department has reported an increase in thefts. Burglaries were also up last month, as was public drunkenness. Last month WCPD wrote 41 public intoxication citations, but as that included WCU Homecoming weekend, probably not too bad.
No take-backs. West Chester Police are seeking assistance identifying an unknown person wanted in connection with a burglary at the G Spot Thrift Shop on E. Market St. The individual is suspected of using a ladder to enter through a second-story window of the property. The individual is then seen walking away with a bag full of items. The footage is kind of fuzzy, but if it sparks something or you have any information about this incident, contact the WCPD at 610-696-2700.
That’s a mighty pretty bike you got there. West Chester Police are investigating a burglary in the 500 block of S. Church St. that resulted in the theft of a sky-blue Critical Cycles Harper single-speed mountain bike. If you have any information about this incident or spot the bike in the wild, contact the WCPD at 610-696-2700.
Fall elections are less than a month away. Last week nine of the 10 candidates for West Chester’s five open school board seats participated in a two-hour voter forum hosted by the League of Women Voters. Here’s a review of what they had to say. Here’s more info about this year’s election.
Next time just bring the shopping list. Westtown-East Goshen Police arrested Isom Crisp this week after finding a diary within a cart of items left at the Giant on West Chester Pike. It is believed Mr. Crisp was intending to steal the items in the cart before abandoning the mission. Confirming the suspicions, the diary included Mr. Crisp’s name and documentation of a series of thefts committed throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Mr. Crisp is now facing felony theft charges.
Keep your hands and your feet to yourself. West Chester Police are investigating an altercation that occurred in front of Barnaby’s at around 11 p.m. on Oct. 1. If you have any information or a Devante Smith Eagle’s Jersey and a cellphone recording of the incident, the West Chester police would like to talk to you. Give them a call at 610-436-1335.
Leave the soap in the shower. And most certainly don’t bring it to Marshall Square Park.
This week a round of applause to Iron Hill, Disc Hounds, Church Farm School, Parrot Troopers and White Manor Country Club – all winners at Sunday’s Chili Cook-off. Saloon 151’s Outlaw Chili claimed the wooden nickels and the People’s Choice Award.
I didn’t get a chance to try Church Farm School’s Scrapple-licious Chili but the others were pretty good. You can find the complete list of winners here.
And while we are laying out congratulations, a standing O’ to the West Chester Rotary Club for another amazing event. It was perfect chili weather and the street was wall-to-wall people both ways. Despite the crowds, the chili just kept coming. I heard more than one person say they couldn’t eat any more chili. They did all, however, seemingly have room for a slice of chocolate-dipped cheesecake on a stick. Something I seriously wish I had gotten to before they closed up shop.
Also, celebrating this weekend is Blue Dog Printing which just logged 20 years in the printing business. According to a post on their Instagram account the business began in 2003, when now owner Bill Friedmann decided a print shop would be the perfect complement to his wife’s already existing design business – a one-stop shop so to speak – and bought one that happened to be for sale. They may not have known known anything about printing but they clearly knew something about clients. Congratulations, Blue Dog, on 20 years!
Finally, this week a couple of sports shout-outs.
Golf claps to Rustin’s Sam Feeney who won this week’s District 1 Golf Tournament. Sam finished the two-day tourney with a 2 under par. Now, Sam, along with teammates Anesti Kalderemtzis, Cole Berry, and Nick Linkchorst, is headed to the PIAA State Golf Championship on Oct. 16 and Oct. 17.
High fives to Henderson’s Boys’ Soccer Team which claimed crosstown bragging rights last week with a 2-1 victory over a tough Rustin team. After going down early, Henderson scored two goals in the second half to secure the win. The Warriors beat East earlier this season leaving them in sole possession of Borough bragging rights.
Let’s keep playing! This week the West Chester Adult Baseball League returned to the Borough Council Safety Committee with a plan to control foul balls that have been spraying out from the batter’s box and into the adjacent parking lot. These errant balls have essentially made the lot useless and pushed player and spectator cars into nearby neighborhoods.
So the new plan is to install wood utility poles into the ground and cover them with cables and yellow netting. The poles, once installed, will span 90 ft. and stand at a height of 45 ft. For perspective, the current backstop is roughly 38 feet high and thought to be doing a pretty good job of stopping foul balls hit behind the plate. The netting will be installed on the east side of the backstop between the field and the parking lot.
“There’s probably 20 spots that don’t get used. That’s where the ball escapes into the parking lot and onto Ashbridge Street and into neighboring houses,” said league director Charlie Cooper. “I think putting this netting up at a higher height will allow full use of this parking lot.”
The plan was approved 3-0 by the committee. It will go to full council next week and will require a completed engineer’s report before work can begin. However if things go as planned, the netting will be in place by the time the umpire says, “Play ball,” next spring.
Also, a big welcome back to Gritty. The Flyers’ lovable mascot is making a return visit to Gay Street – tonight – as part of its Community Caravan program hyping the 2023-24 NHL season. Last year the Flyers staged a well-received takeover of the 44 West Plaza. This year they are moving down to the Post Office but are hoping for a similar turnout. In addition to Gritty, there will be giveaways, lawn games, music, and inflatables. Activities are scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. and the event is free to attend.
Finally, hello, freshly, paved roads. Many people have been asking about this – and it does seem to be taking longer than usual this year – but we have been promised that newly paved roads are coming – including High and Market Streets.
According to West Chester Public Works Director Don Edwards, their fall paving projects will begin on Monday. In addition, PECO is expected to begin paving High and Market Streets, as well as a few other streets, soon.
“There should be a considerable amount of paving done, I would say in about a month,” Don told the Public Works Committee this week.
View a complete list of Borough paving projects here. (Note this list does not include the PECO projects.)
This week we learned WCU is saying goodbye to more upperclassmen than it would probably like. Despite welcoming a record number of freshmen and transfer students this year, West Chester University saw its overall enrollment shrink by just over one percent. Pennsylvania’s state university system, PASSHE, saw a similar trend. Freshmen enrollment across all PASSHE schools rose by 3.4 percent, however, total enrollment shrunk by 2.2 percent.
Speaking of WCU goodbyes, The Quad, the university’s student news service, is reporting the school has parted ways with tenured professor Dr. Van Stiefel. The action comes after a student accused the 17-year professor of an inappropriate relationship. Dr. Stiefel was a professor of composition at the School of Music.
Also, is it farewell to the new Wawa planned for the Parkway Shopping Center? This week the West Goshen Planning Commission tabled a vote on the conditional use application for the new 5,300 sq. ft convenience store with fueling stations. According to a recount of the meeting in the Daily Local, members of the Commission raised concerns over traffic in the area and requested a traffic study be completed before they decide to approve or deny the project.
To accommodate the new Wawa more than half of the existing Parkway Center would need to be demolished, including where Timothy’s sits today. Timothy’s owner has maintained that news of the pending project has hurt his business as local clients have assumed it closed or closing. (For the record, it is neither. The project, if approved, is not expected to begin before the summer of 2024 and Timothy’s has been offered alternate space should their current location be eliminated.)
Finally, say goodbye to the ARPA – or American Rescue Plan – funds. As you’ll recall in 2021, the Federal Government approved $65.1 billion in aid to local cities to help them recover from pandemic shutdowns and disruptions. West Chester Borough received just over $2 million in funds. Well, that money has now been all but spent according to West Chester Finance Director Barb Lionti.
“It has all been allocated,” she told members of the Borough’s Finance Committee this week. Since its arrival in Borough coffers the money has been used to support various projects including the upgrade of the Everhart Park playground, the purchase of a street sweeper, a Parks & Rec master plan, the replacement of the Borough Hall roof – and 25 other things.
While the money has been earmarked, there is still about $1 million left to spend.
“We will be coming back to Council in the middle of 2024 with any projects that are completed and any money that needs to be reallocated because that needs to be spent in 2024,” Barb informed the committee.
Pay it forward.
Chester County Food Bank and Benchmark Federal Credit Union have announced they are continuing to work together to present a culinary arts workforce development training program for those looking to establish a career with a livable wage. The FreshStart Kitchen program is aligned with the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Ready program and features a 10-week curriculum designed to meet the six core competency areas defined by the industry.
In addition, Benchmark provides students with budgeting and monetary instruction helping them to gain confidence and financial understanding as they begin careers in the restaurant industry.
“This is our third year supporting the FRESHstart Kitchen program,” said Daniel J. Machon, Jr., President and CEO of Benchmark Federal Credit Union. “We’re always open to educating our community on financial literacy, especially in this volatile interest rate environment when so many are struggling to support themselves and their families.”
FRESHstart Kitchen is a free culinary arts training program run by the Chester County Food Bank. There are three sessions a year, each open to up to eight students. If you are interested in learning more about this program, contact Alex Gomez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking for ways to do your own good deed? How about purchasing a bold pink Jake’s Bar T-shirt? Only $20 and all proceeds go to support Unite For Her. Just note quantities are limited, so if you want to make a statement, order now.
Have a little more disposable cash on hand? Then maybe I can interest you in your own Marshall Square Park bench. The benches feature a timeless Victorian design and commercial-grade durability. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Plus, you’ll also always have a place to sit. Contact the Friends of Marshall Square Park to learn more.
The ‘Weekend Marquee’ by Uptown
Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers | October 20 @ 7:30PM
Back for a repeat performance, KYL/D is lauded as “the pinnacle of Philadelphia’s outstanding dance community.” Don’t miss this dynamic event. Get your tickets now!
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? I don’t know about you, but I am breaking out the winter clothes. I think I pushed it off a week too long as is. And doing last-minute shopping for a birthday gift, I also pushed off a week too long. (Happy Birthday, Dad!)
If you are around this weekend, note that West Goshen has moved its Food Truck Festival to Sunday – I am assuming this is the same for the Pumpkin Fest, but they have been tight-lipped about that event this year.
Looking for something to do with the kids? The library is having a STEM Fair and solar eclipse viewing party on Saturday. There will be indoor activities should the viewing portion get rained out but registration is required (and there is currently a waitlist). Speaking of a dreary, rainy weekend, Uptown is welcoming Southern Rock Tribute band High Noon, Artillery has that afterparty and Two Birds Cafe introduced its fall pastry specials. They include apple cider whoopie pies, pumpkin loaf with cream cheese, and Jewish Apple Cake. Hungry now? These are the best restaurants in West Chester according to Eater Philadelphia.
And this week a very special thank you to PetCare Group this week’s Community Sponsor. For the last 20 years, PetCare Group has given local pet owners peace of mind knowing their pets are lovingly cared for even when they are away from home. PetCare Group now has over twenty pet sitters and dog walkers ready to help whenever you need a hand – 24/7365. Check out their website to learn more about what they do.
PetCare Group has an experienced team of care providers for in-home pet sitting, dog walking, and dog training every day of the year – including weekends, holidays, and overnights. Insured, bonded, and in business for twenty years, PetCare Group cares for cats, dogs, reptiles, small animals, donkeys, goats, and chickens. Need a hand? Give them a call today!
View a list of all our amazing Community Sponsors here. Want to get your business out in front of this wonderful community? I don’t blame you. Community Sponsorships are full but there is still some limited ad space available. Send me an email if you are interested – but hurry, spaces are filling up fast!
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Mark your calendars:
- Oct. 13 – Flyers Town Takeover 2023, Gay Street in front of the West Chester Post Office, 5 – 7 p.m. Gritty’s coming back to West Chester to kick off the 2023-24 NHL season! In addition to the Flyers beloved mascot there will be giveaways, lawn games, music, and inflatables.
- Oct. 13 – Chilling West Chester: a Dark History Walking Tour, Chester County History Center, walks start at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. each lasts about 90 minutes. Tickets: $18
- Oct. 13 – Bring Your Own Vinyl Night, Hop Fidelity, 6 – 10 p.m. You bring it, they spin it! Every Friday.
- Oct. 13 – Take 3, Uptown Theater, 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. Living at the intersection of pop, rock, and classical, TAKE3 is nothing short of exhilarating. Tickets $35/advance; $40/door
- Oct. 14 – West Chester Growers Market, Chestnut and Church St. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
- Oct. 14 – Fall Festival, United Methodist Church of West Chester, 129 S. High St, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Come out for a great selection of crafts, jewelry, Christmas items, baked goods and lunch!
- Oct. 14 – STEM Fair, West Chester Public Libary, 1 – 2:30 p.m. Details coming.
- Oct. 14 –Mixed Repertoire, WCU’s Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 2 p.m. The Fall Repertoire will include three performances: Carmina Burana, Gabriele Concertante, and Walkin’ After Midnight. Tickets $30 – $50/depending on location.
- Oct. 14 – Chilling West Chester: a Dark History Walking Tour, Chester County History Center, walks start at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. each lasts about 90 minutes. Tickets: $18
- Oct. 14 – Photography – Second Saturday Gathering, Chester County Art Association, 11 a.m. -1 p.m. CCAA member, Bill Earle, will host a free gathering on the second Saturday of each month for like-minded people interested in photography. Photographers of all levels are encouraged to bring print and/or digital work to share and discuss.
- Oct. 14 – Outfest 2023, 2 N. High St., 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. The LGBT Equality Alliance of Chester County is working with the original planners to bring an Outfest celebration to downtown West Chester – for real this time. This is a family-friendly event. All are welcome.
- Oct. 14 – High Noon, Uptown Theater, 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. This high-octane 7 member bandis the East Coast’s premier tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd & Southern Rock. $29/in advance; $34/at the door
- Oct. 14 – West Goshen Fall Movie Series: Super Mario Brothers, West Goshen Park, 7:30 p.m. Movie is free but a dry good donation to West Chester Food Cupboard is Encouraged.
- Oct. 14 – West Chester Haunted History Tours, Historic West Chester Courthouse, 5 or 7 p.m. Come along for a chilling walking tour through West Chester’s spooky history. Tours last approximately 1.5 hours and cover 1 mile of ground. Tickets: $20/adults;$10/kids 12 and under.
- Oct. 15 –Lulu’s Casita’ Boo at the Park, Marshall Square Park, 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. a spooky good time with ALL your favorite characters. Plus, Halloween activities, pumpkin painting, sensory stations and more! Email email@example.com for tickets. Sign up required.
- Oct. 15 –Mixed Repertoire, WCU’s Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 4 p.m. The Fall Repertoire will include three performances: Carmina Burana, Gabriele Concertante, and Walkin’ After Midnight. Tickets $30 – $50/depending on location.
- Oct. 15 – Fall Foliage Express, West Chester Railroad, 230 E Market St, 12 and 2 p.m. Enjoy a brisk fall afternoon along the picturesque Chester Creek Valley. 90 minute journey. Tickets: $22/adult; $18/kids 12 – 2
- Oct. 15 – Jitters Quizzo, Jitters – 146 W. Gay St, 7 – 10 p.m. Every Sunday
- Oct. 15 – Kildare’s Karaoke Night, Kildares – 18 W. Gay St., 10 p.m. – 2 a.m. Every Sunday
- Oct. 16 – The Safe Harbor: Golftoberfest, Radley Run Golf Course, Day begins at 11 a.m. with registration and lunch. Followed by golf (scramble format) and dinner at 4:30 p.m. Cost is $400 for a single golfer to participate in all events. All proceeds go to support Safe Harbor.
- Oct. 16 – $5 Monday Night Movie, Uptown Theater, 7 – 9 p.m. Free popcorning included! Showing: The Human Trial
- Oct. 16 – Poker Night, Saloon 151, 7:30 – 10:30 p.m. Free weekly Poker Nights every Monday at Saloon 151. Enjoy $9 burgers and $3 Guinness pints all day.
- Oct. 17 – West Chester Public Library’s Storytime Registration, 10 a.m. Online registration opens for the late fall storytime sessions. Session is 5 weeks. Open to kids 0-5.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week!
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