Positive Movement Entertainment is better known as the 'Philly Elmo drumline'

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Mention Irish potato candy to people not from Philadelphia, and they likely won’t know what you’re talking about. Then they’ll be intrigued to discover there’s absolutely no potato in the recipe. For people who grew up in Philly, of course, the St. Patrick’s Day sweets are a time-honored tradition. They’re also a perfect example of the idiosyncrasies that define the city.

Learning about the candy’s non-potato-ness inspired a recent post from Twitter user @ActNormalOrElse, who basically credited the city with giving the entire Atlantic seaboard its personality.

“Moving to the East Coast,” they wrote, “has just been a series of finding out increasingly implausible sounding things about the City of Philadelphia.”

The tweet sparked a flood of conversation, much of it positive. Which makes sense, because discussing the shock, surprise, admiration, envy, or horror that meets outsiders when they discover the city’s unique features is one of Philadelphia’s favorite things.


Several other distinguishing traditions, icons, and situations were brought up in the many comments on the thread.

A tired trope like throwing snowballs at Santa was dismissed early on, though it was followed up with a valid example: HitchBot’s demise, wherein Philly was the endpoint for a Canadian experiment about the kindness of strangers.


There was that time a viral anonymous letter about building a “steel furnace” to melt “bodies of people and animals” turned into a real life party on a large vacant lot.

Shoutouts were made to “drumline Elmo” or “Philly Elmo,” aka Tony “Tone” Royster and Positive Movement Entertainment. The troupe first gained fame via a video of them marching outside a scrapyard fire in 2018, and have since become a beloved, sought-after entertainment.

As shown with the Irish potatoes, food plays a big role in the city’s identity.

While soft pretzels are found all over the country and the globe, no other region has adopted the shape and style that makes Philly’s versions so pleasingly dense and chewy.


Tastykake is so much a staple in local convenience stores that it’s easy for Philadelphians to forget that the name of the brand’s most popular treat isn’t really a common word outside the Delaware Valley.

A shot-and-beer combo has its own unique name, and there’s debate over whether a citywide special counts as one drink or two.

Philadelphia’s competitive spirit rings loud no matter what’s at stake. One newcomer mentioned the backlash spurred by a vegan entry being allowed into a South Philly meatball contest.

It’s the birthplace of two of the world’s most famous sports mascots, who both do a good job personifying the distinctive character of their hometown.

Another weird but true concept: You can enjoy the nightlife and culture (and even job opportunities) of NYC and not have to pay exorbitant rents.

Transit issues were also discussed, like the Philadelphia underutilized Regional Rail system (which leaders just this week announced a plan to overhaul).

Is there another large metropolis that allows parking on the median of a main thoroughfare even though it’s officially illegal?

Then there’s the zeitgeist that leads to neighbors offering you a deceased relative’s stock of booze if they find out it’s a brand you like.

Yep. Philly gonna Philly. And the people here wouldn’t have it any other way.


Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...