Philly gets quirky with it

This weekend's Red Bull Flugtag competition isn't the only oddity in City of Brotherly Love

  • Red Bull Flugtag competition was held earlier this year in Miami. Next up: Philadelphia on Saturday at the Camden Waterfront.
Red Bull Flugtag competition was held earlier this year in Miami.…
September 03, 2010|By John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun

Flugtag. It's a funny-sounding word for a quirky event that is expected to take over the City of Brotherly Love this Saturday.

Red Bull Flugtag, a competition where teams make human-powered flying machines and pilot them off a 30-foot-high deck into the water below, has attracted spectators in 35 cities worldwide since its 1991 beginning in Vienna, Austria.

Past contraptions have been fashioned to resemble flying tacos and Winnebagos with wings. The longest "flight" this year has been 207 feet, but the originality is definitely there. Teams are judged by distance, creativity and showmanship. In keeping with the true spirit of Philadelphia, the event's judges will include people dressed up as local characters such as Betsy Ross and Ben Franklin.

The event comes to Philadelphia for the first time in part because the city hosted the Red Bull Soapbox race in 2008.

"After the city's amazing response … we knew we could find great success here and bring something back to this great city," said Kerri Holt, a representative for Red Bull, a company that makes energy drinks.

There will be 32 teams competing in Philadelphia this weekend. The event typically draws anywhere between 35,000 and 100,000 spectators. The largest crowd for an event was 250,000 in London in 2003.

Philadelphia is ready to host the unusual, if not historic, event.

"It's no Continental Congress, but it is another gathering of the 'brave and the brainy' in Philadelphia — and we love it," said Cara Schneider, media relations director for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. "Fly, dry off, grab a beer and enjoy the city."

Philadelphia has plenty of attractions and spots to keep spectators in the quirky mood long after the event ends Saturday afternoon.

East Passyunk, a neighborhood with Italian roots and an American Indian name, is the new "it" place to be in Philadelphia. Lined with Mexican, Japanese, gay and Euro-chic shops, the influx of cultures gives the neighborhood an eclectic feel. It is also unusual in that it is comprised of several diagonal streets, which differs from the city's traditional grid layout. It can be confusing, says Schneider, but that adds to its quirkiness.

Visitors shouldn't miss seeing the "singing fountain" at Passyunk Avenue and 11th Street or stopping for fig ice cream at Da Vinci, a restaurant that also has a patio garden containing the designs of mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar.

The Northern Liberties neighborhood is home to the younger hipster crowd. The area is filled with rehabbed, eco-friendly homes, and a number of shops, bars and restaurants. Check out Bar Ferdinand, which Schneider describes as a "sexy Spanish tapas place" and The Piazza at Schmidt's, an 80,000-square-foot open-air European-style plaza that includes 35 artists studios and boutiques.

You can't visit Philadelphia and not eat a cheese steak. Now, even vegetarians can get in on the action. A number of traditional cheese steak powerhouses — visit the famous Redding Terminal — have begun making the Philadelphia classic using mushroom, tofu and other nonmeat ingredients.

Also be on the lookout for banh mi, which is essentially a Vietnamese sub. The sandwich, which can be made with pate or tofu, is layered with pickled veggies and cilantro.

When it comes time to rest there is no reason to deviate from the quirky theme.

Palomar Hotel in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood is eco-friendly, pet-friendly and artsy. The hotel is filled with work from local artists, including an abstract portrait of Benjamin Franklin under the front entrance awning. Guests enjoy snacks and Arnold Palmers in the living room and a wine happy hour. Rates range from $170 for a room with a king size bed to $335 for a deluxe one-bedroom suite. Ask for the Summer Lovin' package deal.

If you go

Saturday at the Camden Waterfront. Gates open at 11 a.m. The first flight is 1 p.m. and the last flight is 3:30 p.m. Free.

For details on visiting Philadelphia,including hotel deals and events, visit

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