Popcorn vendor turns Phillies games into a balancing act

No one in, two out, bottom of the fourth, and the crowd in Section 120 at Citizens Bank Park is listless.

Samantha DiMarco then walks down the aisle with a plastic tub filled with popcorn boxes balanced on her head.

Fans look up. Some yell to stop her. She has a sale.

Philadelphia stadiums these days are largely free of the colorful street vendors of yesteryear, vendors who developed a following. Charles “The Doggie Man” Frank poked fun while promoting his “hot daaaags” at Palestra, Connie Mack and Veterans Stadium. Seymour “Pops” Steinberg wandered around the vet, yelling, “Cotton candy, here!” in a distinctively nasal ridge. Sometimes, you bought just to make him calm down for a minute.

DiMarco, 26, sells popcorn at the ballpark as a side job to his day job as a physical therapy assistant at Premier Orthopedics. He started working for Crown Foods, an Aramark subcontractor, in 2015. His first product was lemonade, which sold out on wire shelves. Melting ice on a hot day wasn’t fun, and “I said, ‘I’m not going to do this again.'”

Popcorn is much cleaner and lighter. The tub holds 30 boxes, with a total weight of less than five pounds.

But why the balancing act?

“Truth be told, I got bored at work,” DiMarco said. “The 2015 Phillies were not the best team. I was walking back to my stand to get more popcorn and the bin was empty. It’s big, so it’s hard to carry in front of me. I put it in my head. I took a couple of steps and then it fell down, then I picked it up again and kept doing that over and over again. I found that it was easier to carry when it’s full. I just practiced pretty much every game at home.”

After about a month, he said, “finally one day I just put it on my head and it didn’t fall off. When he’s in my head, he stays. I am very attentive to everyone around me.”

Some people ask if it has suction cups or magnets to keep it on. But a random inspection showed no sign of that, not even a dent in the bottom of the tub. DiMarco shrugs. “I don’t think it will stay because my head is particularly flat,” he said.

Windy days are the enemy, as you can imagine. “It’s just paper boxes in an open plastic tub. So I have to hold it,” she said. “My two biggest fears are falling or dropping popcorn on the field. Then I’d be on SportsCenter.”

Teams take notice: “The guys in the bullpen, especially the opposing teams,” he said. “They joke around or just think I’m faking it. This season, it’s the Phillies’ bullpen, every game. They greet me and I return the greeting”.

DiMarco starts on the lower level of the first base side and works his way to third before heading into the outfield.

“People cheer for me all the time, give me a high five and take a picture of me,” he said. “I do this as a side job in the summer because I love baseball. I love the Phillies, and it’s fun. But also, money is good.”

You should know economics. Street vendors are not hourly workers. “If you buy it, I get paid,” she said. Tips keep her going and the balancing act helps.

A box was $4 when it started and then went up to $4.25. Two seasons ago, the raise to $5 reduced her tips to “keep the change,” but that has picked up, she said.

“Last week, I had a Mets fan stop by and say, ‘We don’t want popcorn, but we all chip in,’ and he handed me like $6 and told me to keep it. Well, thank you very much, for a Mets fan.”

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