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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Celebrating 30th year, Wawa Welcome America details plans for 2022 celebration, including new programming – Philadelphia Business Journal – The Business Journals

For the first time since pre-pandemic 2019, Philadelphia’s staple summer Wawa Welcome America celebration will offer its typical full in-person programming this year, including the return of the festival to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the addition of new events like block parties and programming focused on mental health.
The 30th iteration of the 16-day program will run from June 19 to July 4, once again including Juneteenth celebrations in the festivities. Wawa Welcome America operated on a virtual basis in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and returned on a hybrid basis last year, though many core elements were markedly different than usual, such as the pinnacle July 4 concert taking place at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.
About 500,000 total attendees are expected to turn out for the festival this year, Welcome America Inc. CEO Michael DelBene told the Business Journal. The majority will stem from the region but others are expected to travel from afar. As such, the return of a full in-person festival is expected to produce “a significant economic impact” on local businesses including hotels and restaurants, he noted, as “this year everything is back where it belongs.”
Events like Wawa Welcome America play a role in drumming up national attention for Philadelphia in the years leading up to the 2026 semiquincentennial, DelBene added. The organization made the strategic decision to integrate Juneteenth into the lineup, and other potential additions aren’t off the books. For example, Welcome America may look to add some days closer to Memorial Day, and extra programming may bolster the festival over the next few years, he said.
“I’m not committing to this, but maybe one parade becomes two, one concert becomes two, 50 programs becomes 60,” DelBene said. “We’re going to grow, grow, grow so that we’re not going to go from 0 to 2026 — we’re going to grow every year leading up to it.”
As for this year, the concert and hallmark fireworks will return to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on July 4, with artists Jason Derulo and Ava Max set to headline the show.
New this year is an Avenue of the Arts Block Party presented by banking partner PNC that will take place at the Kimmel Cultural Campus in celebration of the local arts and culture community, DelBene said during a press conference at the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps on Tuesday morning. In partnership with Independence Blue Cross and the city, Welcome America will also promote for the first time opportunities for Philadelphians to receive “mental health first aid training,” a public education program that teaches people how to identify, understand and respond to signs of behavioral health challenges or crises.
Wawa Hoagie Day will take place on June 29 at 12 p.m. at Independence Mall, where 30,000 hoagies will be distributed. Other events at Independence National Park include the Gospel on Independence concert on June 26 at 7 p.m., to be headlined by gospel artist Yolanda Adams.
Back this year is the Juneteenth Block Party from Visit Philadelphia and the African American Museum in Philadelphia, while the Our America Now event will relocate to the waterfront at Cherry Street Pier on July 1 and include fireworks.
Wawa Welcome America’s free museum series returns with 30 participating local cultural institutions, organizers said. For starters, the African American Museum in Philadelphia will host a free day on June 19 and the National Constitution Center will follow suit on June 29, said Chris Gheysens, CEO at Wawa.
The Celebration of Community and Culture event, presented by Philadelphia International Airport and supported by Temple University, will this year highlight Latin and Hispanic culture. The July 2 event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Esperanza Arts Center and include programming by the Philadelphia Argentine Tango School.
Among the celebrations on July 4 is the return of the parade, this year with Miss America winner Emma Broyles, the first Korean-American woman to win the honor, slated to be the grand marshal. Also typically announced that day are the Wawa Foundation Hero Awards, which are awarded to area nonprofits with the winner receiving $50,000 and runners up receiving $10,000. Nominations opened today for that program.
“Every year people across our nation, around the world look to Philadelphia as the gold standard in July 4th celebrations and this year promises to be no different,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.
NBC10 serves as the broadcast partner for Wawa Welcome America. Festivities like the Fourth of July concert and fireworks will be shown live on-air on NBC10 and Telemundo, while daily updates will take place on lifestyle show Philly Live, said Ric Harris, general manager at NBC10. Streaming options will be available via Roku, Apple TV, online, social media and more.
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