It was a beautiful summer night in West Chester to host the first of the RESPECT festivals held between Gay and Market Streets on Sept. 1. Between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m., the community banded together to promote mutual understanding and tolerance between university students and the local businesses and residents. The festival combined food, live music, dance and free give-aways from local business to encourage reciprocal open-mindedness of the conflicting needs of the borough residents and the students.The streets were littered with balloons and RESPECT bracelets that helped showcase the purpose of the collaborative event. Clowns and jugglers entertained those that passed by, while carnival food such as funnel cakes, french fries, smoothies and kettle corn were available for purchase. People from all different social backgrounds mingled between one another sharing in the lighthearted and fun atmosphere.
Scattered table stands advertised neighborhood businesses and crafts. Citizen’s Bank distributed soft pretzels and sunglasses to the patrons. Mary Kay gave away free samples of products. Music Works had drums out front of the building for the young and old to try their hand. Mitch’s Gym had a fun wheel with various prizes including waived membership fees. Planet Beach offered free tans while T-Mobile, Pure Scents Candle Co., Brandywine Ski Association, the Democratic Team, and local churches all displayed an interest in trying to form a union as a community.
The local bars that some students frequent were a huge help in trying to organize student involvement at the event. Baxter’s, Spence’s, Teca, Kildare’s and 15 North had outside venues and areas to eat and drink while the festivities carried on. Mayor Dick Yoder, some bar owners, and Rammie the Ram kicked off theRESPECT festival by commenting on value of accepting one another in order to build trust. Yoder asked everyone to “behave in a manner that you can be proud of yourself for.”
The music of cover band Drop Dead Sexy and Latin/Jazz band Sabroso, as well as the Crane School of Dance, provided a pleasurable ambiance in representing the message of the evening.
Joe Pardo, a bartender at 15 North, enjoyed the upbeat nature of the RESPECT festival and was part of the cooperation effort between businesses, particularly the bar scene, trying to get inhabitants to be careful when leaving the bar at night. “We’re here for the college kids, and the college kids are here for us,” Pardo said. However, he said he would like to see less noise, vandalism, fights and general disturbance occur after last call.
The premise of the evening was to have respect for anyone and everyone. Differences in age, gender, nationality, religion, and political beliefs all enjoyed entertainment and helped support the fight for a more considerate and caring community.
Liz Simms, a senior, said, “I think it is really great that West Chester supports local artists, and it gave the town a chance to come together in a positive way.”
Most importantly, the RESPECT festival provided a learning experience for all who were apart to appreciate one another.
Another RESPECT festival is scheduled to occur in January or February and will be located closer to campus to remind students and residents once again just how important it is to be kind to one another.