Who repainted the rainbow crosswalk at 13th and Locust Streets in the heart of Philadelphia’s Gayborhood?

It was a mystery Sunday during the city’s OutFest gay pride block party.

Leaders and volunteers with Philly Pride Presents, which organizes the annual celebration, didn’t know. And OutFest participants, enjoying the music and shows on the main stage at that intersection, said they had no idea.

A city spokesperson said the city didn’t do it.

But a few people had spotted the generous painter who freshened up the south-side rainbow at 13th and Locust Streets -- one of four seriously faded colorful crosswalks at the busy intersection -- two days before OutFest.

Terence Lewis, beverage manager at Bud & Marilyn’s restaurant on the southeast corner of the intersection, who was working at the restaurant’s outside beverage tent during OutFest on Sunday, offered some clues. He said he spotted the mystery painter about 11 a.m. Friday. By then, about half the crosswalk had been repainted.

The man told Lewis he had started at 4 a.m. Friday. And he said “he paid for the paint himself,” Lewis recalled.

The newly painted rainbow crosswalk at 13th and Locust Streets gets heavy foot traffic during Philly's Outfest on Sunday.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
The newly painted rainbow crosswalk at 13th and Locust Streets gets heavy foot traffic during Philly's Outfest on Sunday.

The man didn’t have time to finish painting the other half of the crosswalk, but said he would finish it Friday night. And indeed, Lewis said, when he went into work Saturday morning, the other half of the south crosswalk was freshly painted.

Lewis described the mystery painter as about 27 to 30 years old, Caucasian, short, with sandy blond hair. He then called someone on his cell phone who might know the man. After the call, he told an Inquirer reporter that the painter’s first name is apparently “Nick.” (Lewis, however, did not feel comfortable sharing the name or phone number of the person he had dialed.)

The four rainbow crosswalks at 13th and Locust had been an instant attraction when they were installed in June 2015. The city’s Streets Department helped paint them that year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. LGBT rights group demonstrations.

Franny Price, executive director of Philly Pride Presents, which collaborated with the city to have the crosswalks painted in 2015, said on Sunday that she didn’t know who repainted the south crosswalk.

Busy behind the main stage Sunday afternoon during the live musical performances, Price said she was able to briefly speak with the mystery painter about 1 p.m. Friday. She didn’t get his name.

“He said he would finish the other half,” Price said.

Earlier on Friday morning, she had posted photos on Facebook of the freshly (but partially) painted crosswalk, outlined with traffic cones.

Coming Out Day & OutFest Mystery Someone did this overnight or early this morning I wonder if they are going to finish...

Posted by Franny Price on Friday, October 11, 2019

“Coming Out Day & OutFest Mystery,” she wrote. “Someone did this overnight or early this morning. ... Little section done looks good.”

“It was an entrepreneur,” Chuck Volz, another Philly Pride Presents organizer, said Sunday of the unknown painter.

“It’s nice that he did it," added Volz, who said that Philly’s OutFest is the largest National Coming Out Day celebration in the world and that he hopes the mystery painter would return to repaint the three other crosswalks.

About two dozen other festival participants said they also didn’t know who repainted the crosswalk. More important, it seemed, is that somebody had.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said Dylan Roberts, 26, who lives in the neighborhood. “The colors were starting to fade. It’s almost as if a new generation is coming along.”