Lost and Found Again

Philly's Italian Festival is bringing back a tradition that's been missing for two decades now...

After nearly 20 years, the grease pole is back

About 70 slippery pounds of lard are secured in five-gallon buckets in an undisclosed South Philadelphia location.

It’s physical proof that, after nearly two decades lost to history, the grease pole – Albero della Cuccagna to Italian speakers – is finally back.

The spectacle once was the centerpiece of the South Ninth Street Italian Market Festival: a 30-foot-tall beacon of steel and pig fat at Ninth and Montrose Streets, topped with meats, cheeses, and gift cards, tempting the brave, the drunk, and the temporarily insane to scramble up – and slide haplessly down.

Things will be a little different this time, though: There will be liability waivers, an 18-and-older age limit, gymnastics landing mats, and, yes, Breathalyzers.

“My insurance agent thought we were crazy,” said Michele Gambino, business manager for the United Merchants of South Ninth Street Business Association.

The pole was last seen in 1997, before the festival went on a five-year hiatus. When the event returned in 2001, the pole was gone.

“We couldn’t find it,” Gambino admitted. And, later, “the hole got cemented over because the piazza got repaved, and then we couldn’t get insurance at one point. And then we had a title sponsor, and the title sponsor didn’t want it.”

But fans never forgot it. Read more at Philly.com…

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