May 19, 2023 - News

Meet Philly's first family of pole-climbing

Frankie Longo Jr. and his father, Frank Sr., and a picture of Frank Sr. climbing a grease pole in his heyday.

Left: Frankie Longo Jr. and his father, Frank Sr.. Right: Frank Sr. in his grease-pole climbing heyday. Photos: Courtesy of Frank Longo Sr.

Frankie Longo Jr. is climbing in his father's footsteps.

Driving the news: The 18-year-old senior at Neumann Goretti High School — and son of grease pole climbing legend Frank Sr. — will take his first crack at scaling the pig lard-slathered pole at the Italian Market Festival this weekend.

Why it matters: Pole climbing is practically an Olympic sport for Philadelphians who celebrate our sports teams' success by madly ascending city property, despite it being greased with hydraulic fluid as a deterrent.

Zoom in: Pole climbing traces its origins back to Italy and is the marquee event during Philly's annual Italian festival. Dozens of participants willingly sign legal waivers and undergo Breathalyzer tests to get their chance on the pole.

The intrigue: Cash prizes and other perks are up for grabs, like the chance to cut the line at Isgro's on Christmas Eve. But anyone who has competed will tell you, it's all about the bragging rights.

For years, Frankie Jr. watched his father — a union carpenter with a herculean physique — soak in the glory after successfully summiting.

  • Now Frankie's ready to take up the family mantle — and he's confident he'll scale the top just like his pops.

What they're saying: "It's more about the legacy of it. When you walk up, there's this omen in the air," Frankie Jr. tells Axios.

Adding to the challenge, Frankie Jr. will compete against last year's winner, Nick Cordisio, one of his father's protégés.

Yes, but: The Longo heir will rely on "tips and tricks" his father taught him.

  • He'll plot when he and his friends attempt their first climb Sunday, well after others, and ensure they have plenty of shirts to help wipe off remaining grease.

Plus: Pops might come out of retirement.

  • "It'll be more like Brady and Gronk," — as in, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski — Frank Sr. says about the chances of him teaming up with his son. "I think my son's got a very good shot of doing it."

If you go: Saturday-Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm, 9th and Montrose streets.


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