A heavy downpour followed the Boyz II Men performance on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway, sending those in the audience scrambling for cover under chairs they hoisted over their heads.

But they weren't budging, waiting for the night's main event, Mary J. Blige, who was expected to take the stage in front of the Art Museum by 9 p.m., followed by fireworks.

The National Weather Service had forecast a high near 86 degrees in the city, with the most serious threat of rain between 5 and 7 p.m., with scattered showers and thunderstorms. The rains started closer to 8:30 p.m. The event remained in a rain delay after 9.

"This isn't rain," said Joseph Holder, 23, of Fishtown. "This is rain on steroids."

He and his friends pulled up walking directions on their phone and on the count of three ran from the awning they were huddled under and off through the storm.

Dana Dingle, 50, of Lansdale, remained, waiting with her family who had traveled in from Atlanta for the concert.

"I heard maybe a possible 30 percent chance of rain," she said, incredulous.

Dingle said she had just arrived and parked her car at 17th and Sansom streets.

Dingle said she didn't think she would stay for Mary J. Blige even if the weather passed.

"We're unsure," Dingle said. "Maybe it'll pass."

It did pass by 9 p.m. and those in the crowd chanted "Mary, Mary." As crews worked to dry the stage, Blige sent word to her fans that she appreciated their patience and would soon perform.

During an interview with NBC10 during the rain delay, Blige said of the fans who remained: "It feels so good to have fans, people that love you so much."

She suggested she wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

"This is my home. I'm born and raised here."

And then, at 9:24 p.m., she took the stage.

Her performance and the fireworks afterward will cap a day filled with festivities celebrating the nation's birthday.

At Independence Mall, a parade began at 11 a.m. at Fifth and Chestnut Streets, heading west to Ninth Street and turning north to Market Street, before proceeding east on Market. It ended about noon at Front and Chestnut Streets.

The parade was followed by food and entertainment around the mall from 1 to 5 p.m.

Lorraine Harris, 86,  of Chester, Pa., has been attending the parade for 42 years. "I came by car, then trolley, then subway," said the retired nurse, nodding at all the bands that marched by. She waved at her son, Gregory, 50, who was carrying a flag while marching with the 2nd Colored Calvary, one of the first African American regiments.

Lauren Donofrio, an X-ray technician, and her husband, John, a mall service manager and a Golden Slippers Mummer, brought Derek, 16 months, to his first parade. "Oh my God, he loved it.  He loved the fife and drums band the best, dancing and clapping," she said.  On New Year's, they got Derek a pair of golden slippers to wear - but he wasn't walking yet.

At 1:30 p.m. at the Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch St., 13 children were to participate in a naturalization ceremony.

Earlier, around Independence Mall:

Bruce and Marianne Katz, of Rochester, N.Y., said they were visiting Philly for the first time and came "for the history." They watched in awe when a Thomas Jefferson reenactor read a speech announcing the decision to break from England and fight for freedom in front of the Independence Hall Visitors Center.

"It reminds me of why I love this country, the home of the free and the brave," said Marianne, 58, a hospital chaplain, as she started to tear up. "And the opportunities here and all the immigrants, and now life is good," said Bruce, 60, a retired product manager.

Yvonne Bebora and Fareen Mwende, visiting from Kenya with the Mandela Washington Fellowship program, which offers civic leadership training, both loved seeing Boys II Men more than anything.

"I loved hearing the way the band read the Declaration of Independence at the ceremony. I love all their songs, they let you relax after a day of work," said Bebora, 27, a nutritionist who lives in Nairobi.

Mwende, 29, who trains social entrepreneurs in her community, in Mombasa, said she also enjoyed the band's reading. "We've seen them on TV but we had to see them live," she said.  They also said the Liberty Bell made an impression and helped them learn about freedom in America.

Ralph Galati, a war hero and a former POW who was imprisoned in "Hanoi Hilton" with Sen. John McCain, received the Magis Award, presented by Mayor Kenney.

In a touching speech, he urged the public to make Philly "the most vet friendly city in the country" by going the extra mile by supporting the troops and veterans. "Go out, call and find a vet, talk to a vet, thank a vet and get right in their face and ask if they're getting their full benefits. Don't accept a flaky answer," he said.

In a videotaped message broadcast during the ceremony at Independence Hall, McCain said Galati had been in solitary confinement, but his "immense love of country enabled him to persevere." Galati received rousing applause.

There are numerous road closures around Center City due to the festivities.

For more information, visit welcomeamerica.com.

Along the Jersey Shore, the Weather Service expected isolated showers, then scattered showers and thunderstorms with highs in the mid-70s.

Camden will celebrate Independence Day with its Freedom Festival at Wiggins Park from 5 to 10 p.m. The park is on Riverside Drive, between Adventure Aquarium and the Battleship New Jersey.