Philadelphia is many things. It is the birthplace of America, it’s an arts and culture hub, it’s a rapidly developing modern metropolis with a food and drink scene unlike any other.
It’s also a city where there’s a lot of ridiculousness, all the time — and this year was no different.
The city embraced its weirdness perhaps more than ever, as evidenced by the stories we’ve collected below. Some of these were hard to miss when they happened, but in case they got lost among the jumble of craziness over the last 12 months, we’re recalling them to the surface.
In mostly chronological order, here are 14 of the craziest, silliest, most-effed-up-in-a-Philly-way happenings we covered in 2018.
1. The Eagles became Super Bowl champions and the city lost its collective mind
The Birds won the Bowl, and the chaos that ensued was at the same time shocking and exactly what was expected. Celebrating crowds took over Broad Street and mounted garbage trucks, scaled traffic lights and shimmied up poles specially greased by actual police officers. They snacked on horse manure. They set off fireworks. Throughout the year, fans continued to profess their love with tattoos, homemade t-shirts, murals — and even a gloating billboard posted up in New England. Super Bowl LII showed the country exactly what Philly is made of…for better or for worse.
2. How do you fix a bad pothole in Philly? Graffiti, apparently
Late winter/early spring in Philadelphia is notorious for a rash of potholes, and in 2018 there seemed to be even more of them than usual. Some people were ready to take “drastic” measures to get them filled. A tire-killer on Fifth Street between Thompson and Master plagued residents for six months — before someone called it out with giant profane graffiti. Perhaps not coincidentally, two or three days later, a Philadelphia Gas Works crew arrived on the scene to fill the offending hole.
3. The South Philly Italian Market Fest doubled the pole-climbing grease
Every year, the 9th Street Italian Market Festival brings back an infamous tradition: grease pole climbing. The messy contest has been around for decades, but got even more widespread play in 2018 when news broke about police lubing lightpoles on Broad Street during the runup to the Super Bowl. Because of all the attention, the stick was doubly slicked this year. Said the festival director: “We’re going to be serious about the larding.”
4. A PECO technician saved this couple’s wedding ring from a Philly sidewalk grate
Remember this viral story about an engagement ring falling down a Times Square grate? Something very similar happened in Philly over the summer. Back in June, a couple was walking through Center City when the husband’s wedding band rolled off and right down a sidewalk grate. The pair tried everything to get it back, including duct-taped fishing rods and clothes hangers. In the end? It was PECO to the rescue.
5. You’re not allowed to swim in Swann Memorial Fountain — but *everyone* does
On a hot summer day, there’s little doubt Swann Memorial Fountain in Logan Circle will be filled with kids splashing around to cool off. 2018 was no exception. The thing is, getting wet in Philly’s collection of public fountains is not allowed, especially not the historic ones. There are several public spraygrounds you can use instead (we mapped them) but judging from folks we spoke with, the rules will continue to be broken — and Parks & Rec will continue to look the other way.
6. A baby raccoon camped out in a window at the Tacony Library
At the Tacony Library one day in August, visitors could be found huddled around a second-floor window, peering intently outside. Wedged between the glass and the security gate was a baby raccoon, just 6 lbs. big. ACCT Philly told Billy Penn it’s policy to leave baby animals alone until the mother comes back to find them, so the little guy spent the entire day sleeping there — then poked his head up to explore at night.
7. Neighbors got really pissed about zoning approval for a daycare
Parking, traffic and “the noise of children.” Those were the laments at a heated zoning hearing this year in which Rittenhouse neighbors attempted to ward off the conversion of a vacant parking garage at 22nd and Pine into a Goddard School franchise. Who knew people could get so angry about having kiddos nearby?
8. The South Philly house with sidewalk pretzel bling
Randi and Mike Lawson were pretty annoyed when a septic issue forced them to shell out thousands to replace the sidewalk in front of their South Philly row home — but the repaving ended up having a silver lining. Just as the cement was setting, they embedded a small metal object they consider their family crest: a glinting gold-plated pretzel that became the talk of the neighborhood.
9. A torched van got a parking ticket because the PPA is ridiculous
The PPA took ticketing to a whole new level in September of this year when it dropped a violation notice on a vehicle that had been literally torched from the inside out. Firefighters responded to the blaze in Mantua nearly two weeks ago — but not before it burned up a white Ford van parked in a no-stopping zone. Since then, the van hasn’t moved, and no city department took on the responsibility of towing it. Instead, it was given a ticket.
10. Chickens roamed around Graduate Hospital and no one was mad
For at least a few months, two or three chickens were seen hanging out around 22nd and Montrose — an otherwise quiet block of densely packed rowhomes. It’s technically illegal to keep live cluckers in your Philly house, but Animal Control opted not to bother the birds. In fact, the department told us it’s their policy not to go after chickens unless they receive official complaints. And in this case, most of the neighbors were decidedly pro-chicken.
12. Officials made it harder to throw a block party, then immediately regretted it
Over the summer, city officials did something sacrilege: they messed with Philly’s block parties. It wasn’t just the addition of an extra step to the application process, advocates said. Residents had to file with the PPD directly, and not everyone is comfortable walking into a police station. Turns out it was the fault of Brian Abernathy, Philly’s first deputy managing director. “Shame on me,” he told Billy Penn, explaining that as soon as he realized his error, he worked to roll back the switch.
12. People cast votes at a hoagie shop
To prepare for an Election Day that ended up having higher turnout than expected, officials had to find a physical location for each of the 1,692 voting divisions in Philadelphia. Identifying that many appropriate spaces is no easy task, especially since each must be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The challenges result in some very unique polling places — including a hoagie shop, a bowling alley, the Mummers Museum and more.
13. It took social media shaming to clean up a vacant lot in Kensington
Shannon Farrell-Pakstis fought to clean up a vacant lot in her Harrowgate neighborhood for three years. Owned by people from outside the community, the lot fell into disrepair and began to host encampments of people experiencing homelessness, so she repeatedly reported the lot to Philly 311, the police and even her councilperson. In 2018, she finally saw some progress. How’d Farrell-Pakstis get it done? She shamed the owners on Facebook.
14. Gritty happened
Was there really a time before Gritty existed? Since being announced by the Flyers back in September, the terrifying orange muppet has extended his cultural reign far beyond Philadelphia. Though it didn’t help the team’s attendance, the mascot popped up all over the place — as inspiration for foods and beverages, as holiday gifts, in antifa protests and on skin ink. At this point, only one thing in life is certain: Gritty is here to stay.