When we got the news in June that a tragic tractor-trailer fire had taken out a portion of I-95, we all had the same collective thought, perhaps expressed best by city managing director Tumar Alexander: “I-95 will be impacted for a long time, for a long time.” But Josh Shapiro — doing his new-governor flex and demonstrating an undeniable knack for seizing a big moment — wasn’t having any of that. He promptly set in motion a flurry of emergency declarations and resource-marshaling we’ve not seen round here since the pope’s visit.
He was aided by a bit of kismet. There was the blink-and-you-missed-it demolition job by Deptford’s C. Abbonizio Contractors, who happened to be working nearby on a different I-95 project. Then we all became experts on foamed glass aggregate, thanks to Delco’s Aeroaggregates, providers of the miracle backfill material — made of recycled bottles! — that temporary lanes would be built upon. And there was the rebuild by South Philly-based Buckley & Company, which also had its equipment nearby, for work on the I-95/Betsy Ross Bridge interchange. Serendipity! PennDOT chief Mike Carroll arrived on the scene within hours and lived out of a Jeep as he planned and orchestrated the rebuild. And thanks to the wildly popular I-95 livestream, the city had something new to cheer for.
The collapse played into the “Bad things happen in Philadelphia” narrative. The reopening less than two weeks later neatly flipped that gloomy fallacy on its head. Well played, Brotherly Lovers!
Paul Vile — a.k.a. Jelloman — has been a gelatinous folk hero for years, known for benevolently launching pre-packaged Jell-O shots into eager crowds at music festivals and Eagles tailgates. But his boozy legend reached new heights during the NFC Championship celebration, when he crowd-surfed the gathered Broad Street masses sling-shotting cups of kelly green slurpables. Then the Super Bowl requests flooded in, so of course Vile (yup, Kurt’s bro) spent the run-up prepping an astounding 4,000 shots of jiggly juice.
After nearly a decade-long court battle, a Commonwealth Court judge ruled back in February that the state’s public-school funding method disproportionately harms students of color and those from low-wealth school districts. The ruling — which could upend how schools are funded in the state — was the culmination of relentless work by Churchill and Philly’s PILC. The case will almost certainly head to the state Supreme Court, but Churchill’s doggedness gave the students and families of Philadelphia and other low-wealth PA districts one concrete result: hope.
This year has been big for women breaking glass ceilings, what with Lauren Cristella and Chellie Cameron being the first women to lead the Committee of Seventy and the Chamber of Commerce, respectively. But Parker’s historic win — she became the first woman to earn the city’s Democratic nom for mayor — takes the cake. In a crowded primary that included several multimillionaires, celebrity endorsements, and deep-pocketed super PACs, Parker’s scrappy campaign strategically engaged diverse voters and broke barriers.
When WHYY and Marty Moss-Coane decided to end the long-running Radio Times last year, we wondered what would fill the microphone-sized hole in our midday hearts. In stepped station stalwarts Cherri Gregg and Avi Wolfman-Arent with a new idea, Studio 2, which is as much a news program as it is an introspective dive into the Delaware Valley’s collective psyche on any given day. The co-hosts’ easy rapport suggests they’ve been running this playbook for years, not just a few months.
We were excited when the Eagles inked the Camden native/Temple alum edge rusher ahead of the 2022 season. Then he went on a sacking spree (19.5 between the regular season and playoffs!) that led the Birds all the way to the Super Bowl, and we lost our minds. No pressure, but we’re expecting similarly big things from another local product: onetime St. Joe’s Prep star D’Andre Swift, whom the Eagles stole in a draft-day trade in April.
You’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of Jaron “Boots” Ennis. Boxing, even in a storied pugilist town like ours, isn’t the draw it once was. But Germantown’s Ennis, one of the sport’s brightest rising stars, is pressing the issue. The welterweight is 30-0 — including 27 knockouts — and eagerly awaiting his chance for the title, which will depend on the result of Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr.’s late-July fight. Now, whether the winner will agree to climb into the ring with Boots is another matter.
What a year it’s been for Mount Holly’s Isabeau Levito, who won a gold medal in the Philadelphia Summer International ice-skating competition, silver in the 2022 Skate America and MK John Wilson Trophy events, and then gold in the U.S. Figure Skating Championship, among other honors. She’s all of 16 years old.
Chadds Ford native and Unionville High grad Erin Matson was named the head coach of UNC’s field hockey team — at the ripe old age of 22. During her Tar Heel playing career, she became the all-time leading scorer in ACC and NCAA Tournament history, was a five-time ACC Player of the Year, and won four national titles. Sports Illustrated calls her “the Michael Jordan of American college field hockey.” Asked about his daughter’s precocious achievement, her father Brian noted, “She’s always been hanging out with people older than she is.”
Calm, cool, and quick with a catchphrase (Bang-bang Georges Niang!), Kate Scott — who took over for Sixers play-by-play legend Marc Zumoff to start the 2021-’22 season — is already our favorite Philly sports voice. Lots of others are taking note, too: Scott’s been tabbed to call the Women’s World Cup this summer and Seattle Seahawks pre-season games this fall. If you haven’t already, watch her on Zumoff’s Fresh 24 podcast discussing the hate directed at pioneering women broadcasters like her — and see if you don’t appreciate her even more.
Edwards (six-foot-seven out of Imhotep Charter School), Wagner (six-two out of Camden High) and Bradshaw (seven-one, also Camden) are among ESPN’s top six high-school basketball prospects in the nation. They’ve all committed to Tyrese Maxey’s alma mater of Kentucky. And they’re all projected to go in the first round of the 2024 NBA draft. Maybe this is the Philly hoops team we should be trusting in.
After heavy losses in the 2022 Pennsylvania Democratic primary (backing Conor Lamb … oops!), Boyer licked his wounds and won big this year when he placed all his bets on the city’s eventual Democratic mayoral nominee, Cherelle Parker. Not only did the Building Trades leader rally union support; he co-founded the new Black Leadership PAC to provide additional muscle. The question of who will succeed Johnny Doc as Philly labor’s king-and-queen-maker feels very answered.
“Norf Philly’s” own Tyler R. Tynes, who grew up trekking into Center City with his grandpa to buy the Sunday Inquirer and Daily News, was named sports culture critic for the L.A. Times — and was named to the Forbes 2023 30 Under 30 list. Baller!
Walmsley was a dedicated athlete and only 10 years old when a torn rotator cuff put an end to his budding traditional sports career. Never fear. He took up juggling instead, and it didn’t hurt a bit: Now the Pottsgrove High School rising senior is the International Juggling Association’s World Junior Juggling Champion and performs, teaches, and tosses everything from balls to knives to bowling pins every which way. Duck!
Wawa does a lot of things. (Some would say too many things.) But here’s one we can’t argue with: They helped the Phillies reach the World Series. The chain’s annual Hoagiefest promotion coincided with a torrid June for left fielder Kyle Schwarber. In the post-season, Schwarber’s longball prowess waned, so on October 18th, Wawa reinstated its hoagie deal — this time under the banner “Schwarberfest.” The results: Schwarber, previously homerless in the post-season, launched six bombs in 11 games. Coincidence? Who cares?
Gossip makes the social world go round. Gossip is the foundation of many a friendship. Yet it doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. Kelsey McKinney, author and host of the podcast Normal Gossip, which chronicles anonymized tales of quarrels and petty drama between regular people, seeks to do a little reframing. McKinney moved to Queen Village last year, shortly after launching the program, and since then has taken to our city like a fish to water. The show has similarly earned a rightful place in podcastdom, with thousands of listeners, inclusion in Vulture and Time’s best podcast roundups, and a national tour. But you didn’t hear that from us.
We think it’s okay to admit that a small part of the appeal of voting is getting that sticker upon exiting the polling place and parading it around for the rest of the day. Illustrator Fabiola Lara gets that. So when Instagram reached out to her in March of last year for a series of digital election-season-themed stickers, she delivered. The colorful set of four, available in English and Spanish, has been shared by everyone from Joe Biden and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Selena Gomez and Kerry Washington.
He’s an iconic state Senator repping parts of the city and ’burbs. She’s an Emmy award-winning actress on a buzzy Philly-set sitcom. While Ralph was collecting plaudits and making ratings rain in her role as no-nonsense kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard on the ABC smash Abbott Elementary, Hughes put his clout behind the eventual victor in our Democratic mayoral primary — the first woman ever to win that race. From Harrisburg to Hollywood, they’re making the right moves. All they need now is a catchy couple nickname: Vincyl? Shercint? On second thought, maybe they’re perfect as is.
Jefferson transplant surgeon Adam Bodzin had a patient on the table, waiting for a liver. But the delivery driver bringing it from New York City couldn’t get through Center City streets blocked off for the Dietz & Watson half-marathon last November. So Bodzin donned his sneaks along with his scrubs — literally — and ran half a mile through the race to fetch the balky organ from the stranded driver, who “felt terrible,” Bodzin told the Inky. The cops gave him a ride back to the O.R. We wonder what the delivery tip is for that.
Cobbs Creek’s Kenneth Johnston set out in July 2022 on a 400-mile Walk to Freedom, retracing Harriet Tubman’s trek from Harlem through the Hudson River Valley and across New York state before winding up in September at Ontario’s British Methodist Episcopal Church, where the enslaved heroine once worshipped. Back in 2019, Johnston walked 140 miles from the Choptank River in Maryland to Philly, the route Tubman took in 1854 to rescue her brothers. Next up: a 1,000-mile slave trail from Virginia to New Orleans. “I’m not a historian,” says Johnston, who calls himself a “walking artist,” “but I build stories along the way and connect them.”
Vincent Basile, a member of the Cara Liom Wench Brigade — and, not incidentally, an Einstein emergency-room doc — was in his strutting garb at the Linc for the Eagles’ New Year’s Day game when he and another attendee, nurse Natalie Spencer, saw a crowd surrounding a man who’d fallen in the stands. They made their way to the guy, found no pulse, and delivered CPR till paramedics arrived. “The first thing I had to do was convince everyone I was a doctor,” Basile said of the emergency.
Before ever matriculating on a college campus, 19-year-old Nicetown native Jemille Duncan had four years of public-policy experience under his belt as a legislative aide to City Councilmember Cindy Bass and, oh yeah, had been named a Gates Scholar. The Swarthmore sophomore’s latest exploits include advising City Councilmember Anthony Phillips, writing a provocative political column for the Philadelphia Citizen, and moderating a televised mayoral candidates forum. Kids these days.
Women continue to make major inroads into traditionally male-dominated sports. Philly scored a major splash in this regard when Lockwood, an assistant sports performance coach for the Eagles, became the first Black woman ever to coach in a Super Bowl. The Birds’ trip to the big game was aided by the fact that their star-studded roster was also one of the NFL’s healthiest. Can’t fly with broken wings, y’know.
Cherelle Parker wasn’t the only ground-breaking “first” to emerge from our primaries. Landau and Ahmad made some hard-to-believe history with their victories in the City Council at-large race. Landau will become, shockingly, the first openly LGBTQ candidate to win a City Council seat. And Ahmad will become the first South Asian and immigrant elected. Both communities have fought for decades to be represented within City Hall — we’re excited to see how they’ll impact change now that they’re finally there.
Books? Who reads books anymore? West Philly’s free Supply Library is far more hands-on. The dropbox on South 50th Street from multimedia artist Cassie Jones, with its “Leave what you don’t need. Take what you want” sign, is a spot for DIYers to drop off or pick up arts-and-crafts odds and ends, from leftover yarn to fabric scraps to … well, the only limit’s the imagination, right? Jones hopes it’s the first of many.
Delco has produced its fair share of star athletes. The most recent to be honored in the form of a dynamic bronze statue (and the state’s first of a female athlete): Cabrini alum and International Sport Kickboxing Association world title holder Fredia Gibbs. The Chester native originally made a name for herself in basketball — first playing for Cabrini, then professionally in Europe. After her return to the U.S., Gibbs took up kickboxing and recorded eight straight victories with 15 KOs. “The Most Dangerous Woman in the World,” indeed.
The humble cowboy hat has been reborn of late as the number one party-girl fashion staple. Fairmount-based Etsy seller Abby Misbin takes it to new heights with handmade designs, one of which has crowned the head of Beyoncé herself. Just two years after the Temple grad started her shop as a side hustle, she was personally contacted by one of Queen B’s stylists about using one of her disco-ball-inspired 10-gallons in Renaissance promotional material. Since then, Misbin has shot into local small-business stardom, and her hats are almost as hard to get as Bey’s concert tickets.
Limerick native Ava Mauger and her family were big fans of FOX’s Lego Masters when her dad found out about an upcoming inaugural junior version of the competition through Facebook. Fast-forward to April of this year, when the sixth-grader was crowned the first-ever Junior Master Builder Competition champ. Her winning design — a Lego boat outfitted with a glitter cannon, a rainbow sail and a unicorn GPS — will remain on display at the Legoland theme park in New York.
It’s not the kind of delivery the North Philly tow-truck driver normally makes, but while en route to visit his daughter, he saw Latasha James frantically flagging down motorists and stopped. She wasn’t having car trouble; she had just given birth. He pulled over, called 911, and, taking his lead from the voice on the phone, helped ensure her baby boy was safe until an ambulance arrived. Then he took care of James’s car while mother and son were in the hospital.
Last summer, Sizzli colossus Wawa proudly announced the debut of Hoagiefest NFTs, a line of “one-of-a-kind digital collectibles” that marked the convenience store/gas station’s entrée into the then-red-hot metaverse. Not long after, the non-fungible-token bubble burst. In a tribute to brand loyalty, 65,000 Shorti lovers still signed on for a sweepstakes to win the imaginary goodies — even if some grumblers likened Wawa’s move to Anakin’s journey to the dark side.
Last November, Barclay Prime server Alexander Tominsky consumed 40 rotisserie chickens in 40 days for reasons that were neither religious nor athletic nor psychologically sound. (If you count all the chickens he dreamed about during the process, he says, it was probably more like eating 300 fowl.) Tominsky’s chicken ingestion captured the attention of our city, culminating in a final chicken nosh session at the abandoned pier by Walmart for all to see. He doubts this could have happened anywhere but Philadelphia. We agree.