Celebrating Germany to Mexico and comic books to horse races, the “festival of festivals” is returning to South Street next week.
Marking its seventh consecutive jubilation, the South Street Spring Festival – the city’s largest single-day festival – is set for Saturday, May 4, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., featuring the sights, sounds and savors of more than 125 vendors, more than 35 restaurants and food trucks, more than 20 bands, three stages, dozens of makers and Brauhaus Schmitz’s eminent Maypole.
For close to a decade, the South Street Headhouse District’s premier free event floods the bustling block from 8th to Front streets, drawing approximately 40,000 people in recent years, according to the organization’s executive director, Michael Harris.
“These things sometimes have a life of their own,” he said. “I’m really proud of how this has gone from just an idea several years ago to a major big festival in Philadelphia.”
Harris notes that the event continues to allure crowds from beyond the Philadelphia region, gaining national traction, too, as in March 2016, USA Today named the South Street Spring Festival as one of the top things to do that spring season in Philly.
Encompassing more than 400 businesses, the more than 25-year-old South Street Headhouse District helps to maintain and promote everything from local galleries and record stores to restaurants and bike shops.
Harris says the South Street Spring Fest serves as one of the biggest – if not the biggest – days for local business exposure.
“Having street festivals and street events is part of the tool kit that commercial corridors and business districts have to encourage people to come to the commercial strips and visit business here and eat at restaurants here,” he said.
Coupled with shopping, an immense component of the day is a sundry of entertainment, ranging from South Street Spring Festival signatures like the celebration of Comic Book Day to new features, such as performances from Philadelphia School of Circus Arts and Airplay Entertainment.
While crafting a South Street-centric festival seven years ago, the Headhouse District considered early May to set the yearly weekend, as the time of the year would welcome various festivities, including the Kentucky Derby, Cinco De Mayo, the local annual Taco Eating Contest, National Comic Book Day and Brauhaus Schmitz’s highly-anticipated Maifest.
“Once we started laying out and looking at it, we said, ‘It’s a lot of bits and pieces that come together to make a great, fun day,’ ” Harris said.
Filling the 700 block of South Street with German motifs, the seventh annual Maifest by Brauhaus Schmitz will encompass authentic German food, flower-crown making, schnapski tent and, of course, liters of beer with performances from German Hungarian Dancers and live music from the Heimatklänge band.
Featuring local live music dispersed across three spaces, including the Pepsi Stage, South Street Stage and Maifest Stage, the South Street Spring Festival will even feature entertainment suspending from the sky with the event’s new inclusion of circus acts.
“That’s a really exciting thing, because they have aerialists,” Harris said. “It’s quite a show, so I’m interested to see how that goes.”
Another new element this year includes the deli delights of Dietz and Watson, which is scheduled to open its doors the day before the festival on May 3.
Along with South Street eateries, the pay-as-you-go festival will feature food from across the city.
When attendees of all ages aren’t munching away, they can continue supporting regional trades by shopping through the crafts of local artists, including jewelry, handmade soaps and home decor.
“We find it to be a great way to promote our area and to celebrate our area and to have an occasion to have people come here,” Harris said.
To learn more about the event, including the list of food vendors, shops and performers, visit southstreet.com/spring-fest/.