Imagine walking through a sunlit park, children’s laughter floating on the breeze, music echoing from a distant stage, and the friendly faces of our community all around. Welcome to Everhart Park, where four decades of the Turk’s Head Music Festival have been bringing the community together in a celebration of everything that defines West Chester. Join me as I reminisce about the festival’s impact and take you through my afternoon at this benchmark festival.
Last weekend, I enjoyed Sunday afternoon at the Turk’s Head Music Festival. For the past 40 years, this festival has been a West Chester tradition, right in the borough’s own Everhart Park. Featuring live music, vendors of all types, and plenty of fun for all ages, this music festival is one of the many great reasons I love Chester County.
We arrived in the afternoon, just as Strange Neighbors was mid set. It was still somewhat early in the event, and the crowds were thin, but everyone was clearly having a great time. Later, as the melodic tones of Lost Northern Tribe played out across the park, I looked around and couldn’t help but notice all the familiar faces in the crowd. Truly a beautiful afternoon.
It makes sense, though. Everhart Park is easy to walk to for most of the borough and is far enough from the shopping area of Gay and Market Streets for parking to be less competitive. And on such a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the beginning of June, who doesn’t want to hang out in the park with live music and plenty of fun? Much like First Fridays and the Gay Street Open Air Market, the Turk’s Head Music Festival is one of our free community events that really understands the character of West Chester.
Fusing our region’s appreciation for history and music, the stage this year was a tribute to Turk’s Head festivals of the past: poster art of all the t-shirt designs over the years were hung like banners about the stage. I remember going to the first few festivals, and just how big a thing collecting the shirts was. These days, most of my collection has disintegrated, and very few folks were sporting their past festivals’ shirts.
Heading from the stage down vendor lane towards the relative peace of the playground is surprisingly similar to wandering Gay Street during the open-air market. All around, shops, crafters, artisans, food vendors, performers, and the familiar faces of our community gather to chat, shop, see, and be seen. Special off-street events like this are also some of the few times we can walk around to so many local craftspeople and find out what they’re all about.
While the festival is a great opportunity to walk up to and talk with many of the amazing artisans in and around West Chester, expect a bit of a wait for food. Unlike at the open-air market, where the restaurants are right there and able to cater to the crowds, a few food trucks were all that made it out to the park this time around. While I didn’t have the appetite to wait for whatever smelled so good from those food trucks, they were well located to be able to take in the whole event.
Standing there, caught between delicious smells, long lines, and the growing realization that I wasn’t that hungry, it struck me just how lucky we are to live where we live. To the west, the sounds of children playing in the playground that, not too long ago, my own kids played in. To the east, the sounds of Northern Tribe and their West Chester University grad on the keys, grooving through the afternoon light. There we were, hanging out at an event sponsored by the West Chester Department of Parks & Recreation at Everhart Park, surrounded by the community that we’re a part of on a beautiful early June afternoon.
Year after year, the Turk’s Head Music Festival brings our community together for a day celebrating the history and character of West Chester. Even the name of the festival harkens back to the early days of the town’s history, though that story and so much more is better told on the festival’s website.
For my part, I’ve seen the festival grow from nothing to what it is today, and have seen the positive impact it’s had on not only the town, but our greater community. Would we have the Gay Street Open-Air Market if we didn’t have such a strong history of community participation at events like this? Would we have all the music festivals in and around town that celebrate local musicians if we didn’t have a record of such events having a positive impact on the community? Funny as it sounds, the Turk’s Head Music Festival has been an unintended keystone in the development of what West Chester is today.
On that note, there are only a few more days until the Summer Solstice Music Festival over at the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance, one of the many events to follow the success of the Turk’s Head Music Festival. Look for me on the hill this Saturday as our community gathers once more to celebrate the onset of Summer. See you there!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my story. I wanted to bring a little slice of why I love Chester County to you. If you went to the Turk’s Head Music Festival this year, what was your favorite band? Let me know! We can compare stories and comment on the music.
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