AN EMPHATIC cheer followed Mayor Nutter's proclamation declaring yesterday Hoagie Day in the city.

"It's just wonderful to be able to say that," Nutter said while instructing the thousands in attendance to dig into the 4 1/2 tons of hoagies on hand.

Wawa Hoagie Day served up free "shorti" Italian hoagies, drinks and chips from noon to 2 p.m. on Independence Mall as part of the Welcome America Festival, and to salute members of the military, fire and police.

Included in the festivities, which is part of the weeklong festival, was the Hoagies for Heroes hoagie-building contest, in which the Police Department came out on top against the Fire Department, and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard bested the state's Army National Guard.

The event attracted both Philadelphia residents and out-of-towners who just happened to stumble upon the event.

"It's great and impressive," said Bob Skow about the event. "There's a lot of hospitality for a big city."

Skow, in town from Iowa visiting family, ran into Hoagie Day after getting off a tour bus.

"We live in a farm, so we really enjoy the city," Skow said.

Theodore Caputi, 18, of Upper Mayfield, was at work when his co-workers told him about Hoagie Day.

"It's really excellent having something important in an important place like this," said Caputi while he enjoyed his free hoagie on his lunch break.

Rachel Bobrow, from New York, was tagging along with her husband while he works in Philadelphia for the week. Overall, she was impressed with the event and the city.

"I had no idea Philadelphia is so far along," Bobrow said.