Assimilation challenges tradition in South Philadelphia’s Italian-American population.
Throughout the season, drivers cruise through South Philly on what Molly Russakoff—longtime owner of the recently closed Molly’s Café & Bookstore in the Italian Market—calls Night Light Rides.
Philadelphians of all stripes take part. Renee Tapp, a geography and urban studies graduate student at Temple University living on South Broad Street, organized a tour that began with a hot toddy and homemade cookie party at her apartment. Then she lead a group of bicyclists on a tour of the best-lit blocks before hitting the bar. This year, the cycling parade of Vans, scarves and skinny jeans ended up at the South Philadelphia Tap Room.
With all the visitors, homeowners feel an obligation to maintain the lights. Generally, they use a block captain system for repair and pay out of pocket to fix broken lights.
Linda Biondo, a South Philly resident whose block does the lights ever year, is asked if they hold any religious significance. She laughs. “That would have to be over a hundred years ago,” she says. “Go ask someone over 80.”
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