ABOVE PHOTO: Eddie Levert.
Photo: William T. Wade Jr.
Wawa Welcome America! Festival, an Independence Day celebration hosted by the City of Philadelphia and title sponsor Wawa, Inc., concluded in style on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with the “4th of July Jam” hosted by The Roots and a fireworks display over the Philadelphia Art Museum. More than 500,000 Philadelphians and visitors attended the concert on the Parkway. During the entire eleven days, the Festival drew more than one million celebrants to free activities and entertainment hosted for all ages throughout the city.
“Wawa Welcome America! is the United States’ premier Fourth of July celebration,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “This year, Philadelphia hosted 11 days of events for Philadelphians and visitors of all ages culminating in an unforgettable concert by Philadelphia’s own The Roots and Boyz II Men. There is no better city to celebrate America’s independence.”
City Representative Melanie Johnson, who serves as the Festival’s Executive Director, added, “Once again we proved that Philadelphia is the place to be leading up to and on the 4th of July. The fact that it’s free of charge is truly to be commended.” City Representative Johnson saluted Mayor Nutter for his ongoing commitment to elevate Philadelphia, with its already thriving historic corridor, as the leading city to host a modern Fourth of July festival.
City Representative Johnson continued. “We’re especially excited about this year’s additional music elements including our Jam finale produced by ?uestlove of Philadelphia rhythm and blues funk sensation, The Roots. This year’s concert was full of Philadelphia pride.”
Joining The Roots Monday night in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the 4th of July Jam were special guests Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael McDonald, Estelle, Sara Bareilles, DJ Jazzy Jeff. Surprising the enthusiastic crowd was the appearance of Boyz II Men halfway through the concert, who performed four songs while handing out long-stemmed red roses to members of the audience. Later, Eddie Levert made a surprise appearance during a tribute to Philadelphia’s iconic Gamble and Huff.
Party on the Parkway, the all-day Benjamin Franklin Parkway extravaganza leading up to the “4th of July Jam” added three entertainment stages this year: one stage for families, one stage featuring World music and one stage produced by ?uestlove highlighting professional musicians with Philadelphia roots.
There was additional programming hosted by the Festival throughout the week. Presenting sponsor Wawa hosted its signature Hoagie Day at Independence Mall serving a 4.5 ton hoagie to visitors, families and business persons.
The Go Forth & Learn Initiative, an educational story time for youth, returned with three programs for children, including one at The Franklin Institute on Saturday for working parents. Peter Nero & the Philly Pops delighted all from the stage in front of Independence Mall, and Miss America attended the official City ceremony and Parade.