Live music plays in the background as throngs of people slowly parade through the crowded streets, stopping for cold lemonade, a BBQ sandwich or a family selfie. Tents line the edges of the makeshift walkway, providing handmade, decorative items as well as shelter from the heat.
The annual Restaurant Festival has ushered in this familiar scene for the past 38 years in downtown West Chester. Daily Local News writer, Jeremy Gerrard, said that the festival, “draw[s] in crowds upwards of 25,000.”
This year’s event took place on Sunday, Sept. 17 and ran from noon to 5:30 p.m. During that time, locals and West Chester visitors alike took to the streets to experience the roughly 200 vendors that came out to showcase their businesses.
West Chester has a variety of restaurants, shops and boutiques, many of which feature deals and dishes only available at the annual event. Local staples such as Saloon 151, The Classic Diner and Limoncello all had tents offering menu entrées. Newcomers such as Pure Fire Pizza and Baked Cookies and Dough provided samples and smaller treats. Some food trucks made appearances as well. Kono Pizza, which serves pizza in the shape of a cone, and Sabatino’s Grill of WCU campus were present at the event.
Mother-daughter duo Penny and Mina made their third appearance at the festival. The pair traveled from Coatesville, Pa. to attend the event. They remarked that the event was much bigger compared to previous years. “There is a lot more to choose from,” Mina said. Both were surprised to see how crowded it was when they arrived at 12:15 p.m. When asked for a must-taste item, they were quick to answer. “We recommend Jaco Taco’s Mexican grilled corn,” Penny said. “It’s a festival exclusive.”
Although the festival may have seemed larger than before, Program Coordinator, Jessica Wilhelmy, said that they had roughly the same number of venders as previous years. According to her, it was a “sold out event” consisting of mostly reoccurring participants.
The Restaurant Festival also featured non-food exhibits. One such exhibit belonged to Gail Yeats of West Chester. Yeats is a purveyor of “pop culture inspired owls.” These plush, nocturnal creatures-donned in outfits commemorating characters like Buzz Lightyear and Kermit the Frog-are sold through her business, Sew Good to See You. In order to claim space for the event, vendors must submit an application and pay a fee. The spaces are issued at the discretion of the West Chester Parks and Recreation Department, and Yeats was particularly pleased with hers. “Our spot is perfect this year,” she said.
Another aspect of the Festival was its live musical performers. The event showcased acts like New Street Heat, Barakka, Steve Liberace, Jeffrey Washington, Joy Ike and Kuf Knotz. Sultry takes on hits by Stevie Wonder and smooth Jazz could be heard by attendees as they made their way through the event.
The West Chester Borough Parks and Recreation Department can be reached on their website or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Olivia Bortner is a third-year student studying marketing. She can be reached at OB876952@wcupa.edu or on Twitter @OliviaBortner.