CONQUER THE GREASED POLE; and other things you can only do in Philly this weekend.


Written by Zoe Fox

There are at least two times when a designated citizen of Philadelphia takes a tub of Crisco and smears it all over a street pole.

When we’re about to win a championship.


And when its time for the Italian Market Festival.


This weekend, May 18th through the 19th, one of our favorite Philadelphia traditions returns to South 9th! Between Wharton and Fitzwater the street will be closed to traffic for the 2-day festival. At Noon both days, revelers can gather in the lot at 9th and Montrose in front of the Rizzo mural with 50,000 of their neighbors to try their luck at climbing the 30 foot greased pole with a team of other confident strong people.

The limoncello is flowing and the cannolis are stacked and the crowd is going nuts for the few that are crazy enough to try their way up the pole to claim the prizes of meats, cheeses, money and gift cards.

The tradition known as Albero della Cuccagna in Italian is said to have been brought to Philadelphia by Harry Crimi in 1973, having been inspired by the San Gennaro Festival in New York City's Little Italy.

Italian Market Festival circa 1976

Italian Market Festival circa 1976

After a nearly 20 year hiatus (for liability reasons, naturally) the greased pole returned to Philly in 2016 and has been going strong since.

A  video  for your viewing pleasure!

A video for your viewing pleasure!

The market itself dates back to the 1880’s and is the longest continually operated outdoor market in America. It’s street stalls and shops are open to customers year-round and now include a mix of cuisines and goods from all over the world. It’s one of the best places to experience living history in Philly and we can’t wait to celebrate it at the Festival this weekend!