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Birthday block party caps off Ben Franklin Parkway’s centennial celebration

The Benjamin Franklin Parkway will host its final centennial celebration with a birthday block party on Fri. October 26, 100 years to the day that the boulevard first opened from end to end.

A view of the parade on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl Victory Parade on Thursday, February 8, 2018.
A view of the parade on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during the Philadelphia Eagles' Super Bowl Victory Parade on Thursday, February 8, 2018.Read moreJessica Griffin

Philadelphia will cap off 14 months of centennial celebrations for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with Parkway Soirée.

Taking place Friday, Oct. 26, the birthday block party festival falls on 100 years to the exact day that the Parkway was first opened from end to end, in 1918. It will feature 100 activities, such as the cutting of centennial cake at 5 p.m., food provided by Night Market food vendors, live music, roving entertainers, beer gardens, extended hours for Parkway institutions, and family-friendly experiences.

"We're bringing people together to experience and enjoy the things we love about the Parkway every day, but also to enjoy a few once-in-a-century experiences," Judi Rodgers, the executive director of the Parkway Council, said.

(For those skipping the Soirée, eastbound lanes around the Parkway begin to close at 3 p.m. and will reopen at 11:30 p.m. Motorists are advised to find alternate routes around the Parkway due to the event.)

Institutions along the Parkway will welcome visitors by keeping their doors open late, including the Rodin Museum and Franklin Institute. The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University will feature pay-what-you-wish admission and "dino-dancing," hosted by mascot Eddie the T-Rex, on the sidewalk outside the museum. The Philadelphia Museum of Art will host its Final Friday programming with a spotlight on the famed Calders.

Kid-friendly events will include music jam sessions, crafts, a "When I Grow Up" station, and a Puzzle Park, featuring oversize puzzles based on the Parkway 100's commemorative coloring book, which debuted last fall and depicts various attractions in the Parkway Museums District. (It's available for purchase at many of the Parkway's institutions, including the Barnes Foundation and the Franklin Institute.)

Adults can toast the Parkway at the rooftop beer garden at the Central Library, a Dino Drafts beer garden at the Academy of Natural Sciences, and the one-night return of the Rodin Institute's Garden Bar.

Attendees looking to learn more about the Parkway's first 100 years can listen  to a segment of the Association for Public Art's "Museum Without Walls" audio program — access via app, or follow the dial in instructions at various artworks around the Parkway — featuring historian David B. Brownlee. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society will offer Parkway landscape tours at the Swann Memorial Fountain and Rodin Museum gardens every half-hour between 5 and 7 p.m.

The celebration also includes the My Parkway photo contest, which invited participants to show the Parkway from their personal perspectives. Twenty-five finalists were selected during each of the four seasons, and a video projection of the 100 winning images will be on view on a wall in Shakespeare Park.

Parkway Soiree is the finale of a series of events and exhibits that the city has hosted over the last 14 months. Last fall, specially constructed pedicabs by artist Cai Guo-Qian adorned with large colored lanterns circulated, giving free rides, and four enormous domes displaying fluid digital projections debuted at locations along the Parkway as part of a project by artist Jennifer Steinkamp. Other programming has included exhibitions, tours, and a fashion show, all themed around the Parkway and its history.

Gail Harrity, president of the Art Museum and chair of the Parkway 100 Planning Committee, said the months of celebrations have provided an opportunity to not only reflect on the last 100 years, but to look ahead to the next 100.

"It's allowed us to reflect on the bold vision of our public officials and civic leaders at the turn of the last century when they created the Parkway, and it has served as a catalyst for thinking boldly about the future and how we can continue to enhance the Parkway," she said.


Parkway Soirée

  1. 5-10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, Benjamin Franklin Parkway, free with paid admission to some events and institutions,