The smiles have returned to Stephen Girard Park.
For the first time since 2019, Easter in Girard Park returned under sunny skies, giving parents a place to bring their children to enjoy the wonderment of the spring holiday season.
The beautiful park in the Girard Estate section of South Philadelphia was bustling with wide-eyed kids, lugging Easter baskets filled with eggs and other goodies.
It’s been a while since the neighborhood was able to fully celebrate Easter the way it has traditionally done over the years.
“It’s fantastic,” said Jessica Frye, president of the Girard Estate Neighbors Association, which organizes the event. “We have a beautiful day and a great turnout. You never know what to expect after all this lag time. But I think everyone is just ready. They’re ready to get back to fun stuff and it’s a great time of year to be outside.”
The event is a collaboration among GENA, Friends of Stephen Girard Park and the Thomas F. Donatucci Sr. Library, with an assist by student volunteers from the Girard Academic Music Program, who contribute community service hours to help beautify the park.
“I have to give my GAMP kids credit,” said Elaine Fera, co-founder of Friends of Stephen Girard Park. “They’ve been helping me for years. I have like 20-30 kids that come out. They did a fabulous job. I appreciate their devotion and their drive. You love to see that in teenagers.”
Students and other volunteers had the park in pristine condition for hundreds of children to run wild during an Easter egg hunt, which challenged kids in three different age brackets to gather as many eggs as they could find. Special rare golden eggs were scattered among the fields and yielded a special prize.
The thrill of the hunt was on full display in the early afternoon hours of the event.
“It’s really amazing,” said David Mariscotti, branch manager of the Donatucci Library. “The fact that everyone has been cooped up for two years and to see everyone out here having such a great time brings a lot of hope for better days.”
The event hung on more than just hope itself. Frye said GENA packed 3,500 Easter eggs for the event, made raffle baskets and lined up vendors to supply free food.
“It’s a labor of love,” Frye said. “Honestly, the biggest piece of the puzzle is relying on sponsorship because it’s costly to do something like this and we want to provide a cost-free event. In order to do that, we rely on our local businesses and despite everything they’ve been through with this pandemic, we probably have a bigger list this year than we have in the past.”
Aside from the egg hunt action, there was a DJ spinning music, a pair of balloon twisters creating inflatable animals and free snacks for all who attended. Those who wandered off the beaten paths could explore the beauty of the 4-acre park at 21st and Shunk streets.
“We work with (Friends of Stephen Girard Park) when we want to host events like this in their space and they keep it beautified,” Frye said. “They are constantly planting and doing ‘Love your Park’ days. They had one last week to make sure everything was spick and span. It’s a great partnership.”
Everyone pitched in to return the smiles to faces of the children who had missed out on the fun event for the last two years.
“This feels great that we can all be back out here again after two years,” Mariscotti said. “This is an incredible event. It’s great that we can all collaborate together and have such a successful day.”