Husband and wife, Jim and Paula Minacci, have been bringing together the Philadelphia community for the past six years. As the sextons of Gloria Dei Old Swedes’ Church, located at the corner of Washington Avenue and Columbus Boulevard in Queen Village, the couple has been pulling double duty to keep the historic grounds thriving.
What started out as a musical celebration for their son’s birthday has quickly turned into a community-based music festival, which holds a series of events throughout the year on the church’s grounds, where the couple lives. Aimed both at raising funds for the church, as well as bringing locals together through music, food and fun, the pair, along with their son Dillon, have started the “Sexton Sideshow.”
“It started just as a family picnic and it was really that way for a couple years,” Jim said of the early events. “It’s just gotten bigger. We can’t cook hamburgers and hotdogs anymore because there are 700 people coming. But now we’ve got food trucks and it’s grown up into a proper city festival.”
The events, which include annual Memorial Day and Labor Day music festivals, Honky-Tonk Holly-Dei Christmas shows, Grave Yard Boo-ga-loo Halloween celebrations, Rolling Stones tribute shows and newly added Sunday Brunch, take a great deal of preparation to put on.
“You have to really think ahead,” said Jim, “but we’re getting better at that.”
“We’re on a national historic site,” Paula added, “so we have to make sure the National Park Service is behind us.”
Each event incorporates help from locals all over the city. Not only do many musicians come together for these performances but the couple has also found generous donations in church members, neighbors and friends, who donate their time in order make the events come together. Local companies such as the Philadelphia Brewing Company have sponsored some of the events over the past years.
By scoping out the local music scene, as well as through recommendations from their son, the Sexton Sideshow has been able to draw an impressive amount of talent to perform their events. Philadelphia musicians Sweet Briar Rose, Ron Gallo, the North Lawrence Midnight Singers, Lucy Stone and W.C. Lindsay, Brown Sugar, Emmett Drueding and New Sound Brass Band are just some of the few who have appeared on the bill.
A handful of artists from Nashville have also made their way to Philadelphia a number of times to be a part of the talented group of performers featured.
“We like local flavor mostly,” said Jim. “We’re always looking for more artists to perform here.”
This year, the couple is also excited to add a new genre into the mix – punk rock.
“We’re stepping out,” said Paula.
Large audiences and sold out events are now making the Minacci’s consider larger venue options. While the pair said they like to keep things on the church’s property, they are excited for the growth their events have seen.
– Text, images and video by Kelsey Stanger.