Community Spotlights

Bringing neighbors together in Bardascino Park

by Melissa Romero on April 22, 2019

As part of our ongoing park profile series, we’re highlighting a couple of Philly parks and their Park Friends Groups leading up to Love Your Park Week (May 11-19th!) This week, get to know Bardascino Park in the Italian Market neighborhood in South Philly.

If you don’t know Alvaro Cortes, there’s a good chance you’ve heard him. “Every weekend you’ll hear me yelling from my house, ‘GOALLLL!’ to my TV screen,” says Cortes. “Soccer isn’t a sport–it’s a religion for me.”

But the self-proclaimed “soccer fanatic” knew he wasn’t the only fan in his South Philly neighborhood. So when the World Cup rolled around last summer, he had a light-bulb moment.

Inspired by the free music concerts put on by the Friends of Bardascino Park each summer, Cortes thought it would be fun to expand on those events by turning the park into a World Cup viewing venue throughout the entire tournament.

“Carla Puppin, the president of Friends of Bardascino Park, has been running these concerts throughout the summer, and they’ve always been wonderful events that bring people together from different parties of our community,” says Cortes. “I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm, so I decided to put that energy into bringing people together when the World Cup came about.” 

With support from a events grant from Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Park Stewardship program, Cortes, who is a member of the Friends Group, organized the World Cup Series Viewing Party by “decorating the park with a complete soccer-themed look,” complete with blow-up soccer balls, a photo booth, and other decorations. He also brought out his own television to the park and used it as the main viewing screen.

“What was wonderful from this event from the very beginning was that folks just took ownership of it,” says Cortes. “As soon as I would come set up in the morning, I had neighbors asking, ‘What can I do to help?”

To help with costs, he encouraged people to bring food to share. “When Colombia played against the other teams, we had a Colombian family show up with a full Colombian hot dog stand!”

On average, each game brought 100 to 120 people to the park, by Cortes’ estimates. “It felt like you were in your own living room.” On the day of the World Cup final, dozens of people still came to the park to watch the game even in the pouring rain.

Cortes and the Friends of Bardascino Park hope to continue bringing the neighbors together in the park. During Love Your Park Week, they’ll host a clean-up on Saturday, May 11 at 10am. That night, they’ll host a neighborhood dinner potluck in the park.

And stay tuned for another World Cup viewing party this summer, during the Women’s World Cup. “It’s the U.S. women who have really put this sport on the world stage, yet they don’t get as much recognition,” says Cortes. “So that really lit a fire in me to make this year’s World Cup party even bigger and better.”

“This park is surrounded by different communities that are not currently interacting with each other in the way that I’d like them to, so I want to offer that experience and help folks meet each other,” says Cortes. “It really comes down to understanding what their world is like. I’m hoping to start those conversations.”’

Upcoming Events at Bardascino Park

  • Love Your Park Service Day: May 11, 2019. Register to volunteer here.
  • Dinner in Bardascino Park: May 11, 2019. Learn more.
  • Celebrate global cultures with the World Traveling Trunk: May 18, 2019. Learn more.
  • Women’s World Cup at the Park: Saturdays and Sundays, June 8-July 7.

To learn more about joining Friends of Bardascino Park, please visit their Facebook page.