How Philly showed its resilience in 2021

Andrej Vasilenko. Presented at Philadelphia Fringe Festival by Arcadia Exhibitions
A scene from ‘Sun and Sea.’
Andrej Vasilenko

2021 was a new year for Philly, one that was full of recovery. Although the pandemic has not ended for the city and the effects of COVID-19 are still with us, Philadelphia was resilient as always— and here are some stories that prove just that. 

The restaurant industry prevailed with efforts from Chef Tyler Akin and the IRC

In May, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was passed, and this advancement offered restaurants $28.6 billion in dedicated relief funds. This essential piece of relief was geared towards an industry that was hurt astronomically — approximately 11 million jobs were on the line during the height of the pandemic. Early in the pandemic, Akin sat on the board of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & ​Lodging Association (PRLA), which represents the interests of over 1,600 restaurants in the state, and the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC), where he works with national leaders in the culinary community as well as D.C. lobbyists. It’s with the IRC that Akin and those championing for the industry made important advancements. The restauranteur goes on to explain it was a question of: Was it going to be a reconciliation strategy that they ended up using or was it going to be an omnibus spending bill that would have required several more Republicans to buy into the whole slate of spending? “So there were a lot of unknowns and forces obviously much larger than restaurants which were shaping this outcome… We were doing everything we could and banging down doors and communicating with legislators to make sure that when that big bill took shape, we were involved. Thankfully we were,” Akin told Metro at the time.

Chef Tyler AkinNeil Santos

In-person festivals came back, and Flag Fest was among one of the first

Flag Festival, one of Philly’s most historic events dating back to 1891, was one of the first in-person festivals to return after the pandemic. In 2020, the Old City organization had to switch to the virtual front, but for 2021, Historic Philadelphia was excited to bring back the festivities in a more formal fashion. The event spanned a full week from June 13-19, and featured a slew of opportunities for all ages — from photo ops to a flag made of chocolate candy and everything in between. The Betsy Ross House hosted its first Flag Day event on June 14 about two centuries ago and has long been the site of the city’s official commemoration. In 2008, the star-spangled celebrations of the early 19th century were revived and, since then, the house has hosted a full slate of events, spanning all of National Flag Week.

M Kennedy

Philly Celebrated Pride 

“Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community couldn’t afford to lose our Gay Pride two years in a row to the pandemic,” said community organizer and out/proud gay business owner Kory Aversa, who helped mobilize the master list and new Pride month website, said at the time. Among some of the events showcased across the city were Sofitel Philadelphia’s annual LGBTQ Hall of Flags and Philly Gay Pride Flag Exhibit, PrideFLIX: The Virtual Pride Film Festival, Gay Pride Month at Philly AIDS Thrift, and a showcase titled “Moving Forward When the World Stopped: Queer Life 2020-2021.”

Pride Parade Philly 2017 | HughE Dillon
HughE Dillon

The fashion scene in the city (thanks to the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator) commemorated 10 years 

A decade ago, the Philly fashion scene was still just an emerging dream for a few skilled, but hard to come by designers. Now with the help of one dynamic program — the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator — the fashion world in the City of Brotherly Love has grown exponentially, and it’s not stopping anytime soon. The incubator has Macy’s as a corporate sponsor (the Center City location also allots 800 square feet of space in the store for the program and its designers), the Center City District and City of Philadelphia as their civic partners and Drexel University as their academic partner. Overall, the one-year program gives designers the opportunity to learn the business of fashion and build a community of networking opportunities to help further dreams along. Over the years, the events that the PFI has put on span from trunk shows to fashion shows to learning events open to the public. Ultimately, they are trying to harness a supportive community for all Philadelphians and designers in the city with starry-eyed dreams. After 10 years of service and surviving a pandemic, they decided to celebrate. 

Philadelphia Fashion IncubatorProvided

Philadelphia Fringe Festival hit 25 Years  

For its 25th anniversary, the citywide celebration of progressive, world-class art offered both digital and in-person performances — all diverse and located in different neighborhoods around the city. The 25th Annual Fringe Festival called for artists to produce 199 submissions, a record for the organization. Fringe audiences were able to check out an assortment of live theatrical and dance performances, art installations, circus arts, and genre-bending experiences that highlighted the wide variety of local and national talent that the festival attracts. The artistically daring performances included live and in-person national and international artists curated by FringeArts. There was also a way for audiences and performers alike to share their memories of Fringe Festivals passed commemorating the occasion. 

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