As summer approaches, Philadelphia is preparing for one of the most festive weeks of the year: Wawa Welcome America, a celebration of everything the city loves (including hoagies) and the history behind the founding of our nation.
On Monday, Welcome America Inc. and Mayor Kenney announced the 50 free events that will take place from June 28 through July Fourth. Festival organizers announced last month that Pitbull will headline the free concert on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway this year.
"This year's festival is a collective vision of the city," Welcome America president and CEO Jeff Guaracino said during a news conference. "It combines the waterfront, the downtown area, and Valley Forge."
The festival is starting with an annual favorite — Wawa Hoagie Day at the National Constitution Center. The 26th annual Hoagie Day will have a 7-ton hoagie salute, a hoagie-building competition between police and firefighters, and, of course, 27,000 free Wawa hoagies.
On the Fourth of July, the City of Philadelphia will honor the Philly Pops for its 40-year history before a parade with 4,000 marchers, floats, and celebrities. Afterward, visitors can head to the Liberty Bell Center for a bell-tapping ceremony or a birthday party at the Independence Visitor Center hosted by Betsy Ross and Termini Bros. Bakery, with 2,500 cupcakes displayed in the shape of the American flag.
This year, there will be two fireworks shows — one on the Delaware River Waterfront on June 30 and one on the Parkway following the Pitbull concert on July Fourth. Both fireworks shows are scheduled for 9:30 p.m.
During the weeklong festival, 18 museums will offer free admission. They include the Constitution Center, the University of Pennsylvania Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, and more. (The Philadelphia Museum of Art is also hosting a screening of Rocky on its steps on July 1.)
"Wawa Welcome America is about fun," Kenney said. "But it's also about promoting education and community engagement."
Independence Hall will be the site of three performances, including a first-time gospel performance on July 1. The Kimmel Center's Broadway Philadelphia on Independence will showcase song selections from the 2018-19 Broadway Philadelphia season, featuring performances from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Anastasia. and Cats, on July 2. The Philly Pops will also partner with Grammy Award-winner Heather Headley for its annual free concert on July 3.
In honor of its 25th anniversary, the Convention Center is hosting a community festival with tours of its $1.5 million art collection, birthday cake and a screening of the movie Sing on June 30. The Reading Terminal Market is also celebrating its 125th anniversary across the street on the same day with the Philly Scoop Ice Cream Festival.
Other new events include a launch party at Dilworth Park with multiple stages, as well as food and drink, on June 28, and a Fourth of July picnic at Valley Forge National Historic Park with barbecue and live music.
"Our country has been in a difficult position this year, socially and politically," Kenney said. "During this week, we want to show the world strength and inclusivity. Philadelphia is a diverse city, and we're happy to be that."