Neighbor stories

Neighbors in Philadelphia Continue Decades-Old Memorial Day Tradition

Written by Jen Burke

Yesterday, Americans across the country celebrated Memorial Day to honor all of those who have served our country. From participating in parades, to placing American flags in every yard, to gathering for the neighborhood barbecue, many neighbors chose to celebrate with each other over the long weekend.

For Luke Smith and his West Central Germantown neighborhood in Philadelphia, Memorial Day is about honoring our veterans, as well as tradition. And while honoring American tradition in a city brimming with so much history is only fitting, Luke and his neighbors have made their own community tradition: the Memorial Day Potluck Picnic.

For the past several decades, the West Central Germantown Memorial Day Potluck Picnic has brought this diverse group of neighbors together to honor veterans by showing their immense gratitude for the great community they feel so lucky to call home. Recently, however, the potluck was in danger of disappearing, as the home whose backyard hosts the picnic each year was up for sale.

After living in the neighborhood for his entire life and being inspired by the yearly event, Luke decided to do something about it – he bought the home to ensure the tradition would continue on.

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West Central Germantown neighbors gather in Luke’s backyard for the annual Memorial Day Potluck Picnic

Landmarked by a larger-than-life Ben Franklin statue on the front porch, Luke’s house was built in 1853 and has been the perfect spot for the beloved picnic. There have only been three owners since 1900, including Luke, which has allowed the long-running tradition to continue without interruption. Luke says neighbors were so relieved when they heard he planned to continue the tradition – in fact, he jokes the picnic was half the reason he bought the place!

The picnic is an event that hundreds of neighbors in the community look forward to every year. Even those who have moved away come back to celebrate, including their neighbor, Jonathan Rhoads, who previously owned the home for 60 years.

“It’s really beautiful to see all the old and new neighbors from all backgrounds and walks of life come together like this,” says Luke. “I hope the tradition continues for generations to come.”

We hope that you and your neighbors were able to celebrate this Memorial Day in all the many ways that honor our great veterans.


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