Singer Mary J. Blige, Philly legends Boyz II Men, the Philly POPS and fireworks highlight Philadelphia’s FREE Independence Day celebration — but there is so much more to the 2017 Wawa Welcome America festival.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney joined other city officials and folks from the beloved convenience store chain Tuesday to announce 50 free events over six days this summer.
WATCH THE ANNOUNCEMENT LIVE ON THIS PAGE
The Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert and Fireworks features Blige – the queen of Hip-Hop soul — Boyz II Men, Kidz Bop and the Philly POPS Big Band for the Party on the Parkway.
The family-friendly festivities get underway at 1 p.m. at the foot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Families can enjoy “the Strider Bikes obstacle course, zip line, games, and make-and-take arts and crafts,” organizers said.
The main event gets going at 7 p.m. and features the POPS, joined by Hamilton actress Mandy Gonzalez and pianist Tony DeSare, along with a ceremony honoring Boyz II Men. Blige then headlines in what is her only free show on her “Strength of a Woman” tour. There will be beer gardens for the 21+ crowd and various food and music on the Philly Groove side stage. There is even the Amtrak Pet Friendly Area where you can bring your furry friends.
The night wraps up with two patriotic (and simultaneous) fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. over the art museum and over the Delaware River sponsored by NBCUniversal and Pyrotecnico.
The Party on the Parkway will air live on NBC10, NBC10.com and Telmundo62 on July 4th. NBC10 and Telemundo62 are official partners of Wawa Welcome America.
Before the parkway party, there will the Celebration of Freedom Ceremony in front of Independence Hall in Old City at 10 a.m. The city will recognize the music and philanthropy of Boyz II Men. The Philly POPS Big Band will also play. Mayor Kenney will present the Magis Award to Philadelphia Hometown Hero Ralph Galati. "Galati’s service has been honored with The Silver Star, The Bronze Star with Valor with one Oak Leaf Cluster, The Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Cluster, The Air Force Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Cluster and The Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster,” organizers said. You can also see the presentation of the Wawa Foundation Hero Award.
Following the Independence Hall ceremony, the Independence Day Parade featuring 4,000 marchers will parade through historic Philadelphia.
Other free events in Old City on July 4 include the Let Freedom Ring Ceremony (1 p.m.) where the Liberty Bell will be tapped; the 6th Annual Birthday Party at the Independence Visitor Center (9 a.m.) hosted by Betsy Ross and Termini Bros. Bakery, featuring a massive cake in the shape of the American Flag; and a children’s naturalization ceremony (1:30 p.m.) where 13 children will become citizens at the Betsy Ross House.
The Independence Day Festivities are all part of the theme of the 25th-annual festival, “Everyone Is a History Maker.”
The festivities begin with a 6-ton hoagie salute at Wawa Hoagie Day at the National Constitution Center on Thursday, June 29 from noon to 2 p.m.
This year’s festival includes Culture on Tap, a pop-up beer garden in the City Hall Courtyard on June 29 from 4 to 9 p.m. and the Food Trust's Night Market Spruce Hill: Independence Day Weekend Edition at 40th & Walnut Streets from 6 to 10 p.m. in West Philly.
Free museum days and nights at the movies return for this year’s festival.
Other events include fireworks shows on at 9:30 p.m. on June 30 and July 1 that will be visible at spots along the Delaware River and SugarHouse Casino’s Red, White & Brew event geared toward 21-and-over millennials on July 1.
A full calendar of events is available at WelcomeAmerica.com or search below for information from organizers:
More Fireworks! Four Fireworks Shows including two simultaneous July 4th Shows at 9:30 p.m. on the Delaware River and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Schuylkill River – Three fireworks shows, presented by NBCUniversal and Pyrotecnico, will paint Philadelphia’s skies red, white and blue. In 2016, USA Today named Philadelphia’s Wawa Welcome America Fireworks on their list of “10 of the nation’s Best 4th of July Fireworks Shows.”
• Wawa Welcome America Fireworks presented by NBCUniversal and Pyrotecnico will take place over the Delaware River Waterfront. Official viewing areas include the Delaware River Waterfront, SugarHouse Casino, and One Liberty Observation Deck. Friday, June 30 and Saturday, July 1 at 9:30 p.m.
• The grand finale includes two simultaneous shows, the Wawa Welcome America Fireworks presented by NBCUniversal and Pyrotecnico over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on the Schuylkill River partners with The Freedom Festival Fireworks at Wiggins Park over the Delaware River Waterfront sponsored by the Camden County Chosen Board of Freeholders. Official viewing areas include the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Schuylkill River, the Delaware River Waterfront, SugarHouse Casino, and One Liberty Observation Deck. Tuesday, July 4 at 9:30 p.m.
New! Events for Millennials 21+
SugarHouse Casino’s Red, White & Brew will feature an evening of great food, drinks, and entertainment by Mo Lowda and the Humble along the Delaware River Waterfront. Following the food and music, attendees can enjoy the spectacular fireworks show as SugarHouse Casino is an official viewing area for fireworks. Saturday, July 1 from 5 – 9 p.m.
New! Red, White and Blue Happy Hours & Brunches – A new version of the previous Wawa Welcome America event called “Taste of Philadelphia” returns in a brand new format of Fourth of July themed happy hours and brunches with food, crafty cocktails, and live entertainment at individual restaurants. Participating restaurants include: Moshulu, Art Bar | Sonesta, City Tap House Logan, Cafe Cret, Midtown Continental. For a complete list of restaurants and bars, visit WelcomeAmerica.com.
• Friday, June 29 from 4 – 7 p.m. kick off the holiday weekend at a featured happy hour location for the chance to grab some July 4th swag and enter to win two tickets for a VIP experience at the Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert and Fireworks. Visit WelcomeAmerica.com for a complete list of happy hour locations.
• Sunday, July 2 enjoy a Red, White and Brunch at featured Philly favorite brunch spots. Visit WelcomeAmerica.com for a complete list of brunch locations.
New! The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts Independence Weekend Salute to Musical Theater at Philadelphia’s Historic District Block Party on July 3 on the Freedom Stage – For the first time during Wawa Welcome America, Broadway shows will be performed in Philadelphia’s Historic District. The star-studded lineup gives audiences a sneak peek at the 2017-2018 Broadway Philadelphia season featuring performances from some of Broadway’s hottest shows coming straight to Philadelphia. Monday, July 3. Time TBD.
New Twist! A Wawa Welcome America Favorite Returns, the Sand Sculpture Spectacular – 2017 will see the return of the art of sand sculpting. Beginning June 20, world-renowned sculptors will transform the Rotunda at The Shops at Liberty Place into a Sand Sculpture Spectacular with hand-carved scenes depicting Philadelphia icons and historic figures out of 24 tons of sand. Attendees can also see a pop-up sculpture in the neighboring One Liberty Observation Deck. Debuts June 20 through the month of July.
New Events in More Philadelphia Neighborhoods Presented by Wells Fargo and produced by The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, and Wawa Welcome America – Citywide Community Day Performances in Public Spaces, will showcase ten performers in ten different neighborhoods across Philadelphia as well as a fun activity for attendees to enjoy. Performances are FREE and family friendly ranging from hip hop dancing, jazz, capoeira, and storytelling performed in historic homes, public parks and squares, and plazas that are in the heart of these communities. Saturday, July 1. Times vary.
Wawa Wekcome America Traditions
PECO GO 4th & Learn – Wawa Welcome America is about engaging children throughout Philadelphia with educational activities, to encourage learning while school is out for the summer. Courtesy of Books In Homes USA, 9,000 free books will be provided to children. Beneficial Bank and Beneficial Foundation games and activities on financial literacy will travel to all events, and additional free giveaways will be provided for kids to enjoy. Go 4th & Learn’s fun educational interactive activities and demonstrations highlight American history, financial literacy, STEM, Spanish language, fitness & health, and arts & culture at the Mummers Museum, Fairhill Square, and the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Free Museum Days – Five days of free admission to ten museums including the National Constitution Center (courtesy of Wawa), the Penn Museum, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site (evening), the African American Museum in Philadelphia, One Liberty Observation Deck (morning), Philadelphia Museum of Art (pay what you wish), The Barnes Foundation (courtesy of PECO), the National Liberty Museum, the Philadelphia History Museum, and The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University.
Philly at The Movies presented by St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children – When the sun goes down, the screens go up for free movies under the stars. Three free outdoor movie screenings will take place at The Piazza at Schmidt’s, the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Franklin Square.
Free Concerts – The highlight of every Wawa Welcome America festival is all the free musical entertainment. This year’s concert lineup includes:
• Free family-friendly performances citywide including The Mummers Museums’ Summer Mummers Concert, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” June 29 – July 1 at 8 p.m. Various Locations.
• Philadelphia’s Historic District Block Party on July 3 will feature three performance stages for artists to showcase their freedom of expression; the arts, music and speech. The Block Party will be followed by a performance by The Philly POPS in front of Independence Hall at a new time beginning at 7 p.m. Bring your picnic baskets and your friends. Monday, July 3 from 12 – 8 p.m.