Fans, families flock to the parkway for NFL draft festivities

On Thursday afternoon, with temperatures hovering around 80 degrees, thousands of football fans, young and old, took to the Ben Franklin Parkway to get a taste of the NFL Draft Experience.

The day kicked off — pardon the pun — the start of draft festivities that will continue through Saturday. While the draft didn’t begin until that evening, throughout the day fans, families and friends took to the parkway to enjoy the day or to share their opinions about the Eagles.

“I’m here to represent,” said Herk Robinson, 62, of Philadelphia, who wore a custom Brian Dawkins/Reggie White jersey.

He had some strong opinions for the Eagles draft picks: “We need to get a cornerback, definitely. That and a strong safety.”

Throughout the parkway, fans could shop for memorabilia, have a chance to meet NFL players and even get a photo with the Vince Lombardi Trophy — awarded to the winning team of the Super Bowl — which was on display.

There were also booths for fans to play football video games together, sample foods from a variety of vendors or try some football skills of their own, thanks to areas set up for the NFL’s Play 60 initiative, which is aimed at getting kids up and active every day.

“We had to come down,” said a smiling Steve Jones, of Hamilton, New Jersey. “My son is a huge NFL fan.”

During the day, Jones’ 11-year-old son, Charlie, ran a gauntlet of football activities where he had to high-step over obstacles, catch a long pass and run for a “touchdown.”

Melissa Archibald, of Phoenixville, who attended the day with her husband and kids, said her family wanted to take in the rare experience of having the NFL draft in Philadelphia this week.

“My kids are all football kids, so we had to come down,” she said.

Asked about their favorite part of the experience, the kids all said they enjoyed the Play 60 obstacle course, though her son Hayden Vella said he’d like the draft a little more if the Eagles made sure to pick up some key players.

“This was fun,” he said. “I really hope the Eagles pick up a quarterback in the draft.”

Derrek Buchalski, who watched his 6-year-old son, Derrek Jr., complete the obstacle course, was there for some father-son bonding and to maybe help his son learn the game of football a little bit as well.

“We wanted to get him interested in the game,” said Buchalski. “Besides, it’s a nice day, and we wanted to get out.”

Other fans seemed happy to spend the day with fellow lovers of football. Friends Tom Powell, 50, of Audubon, New Jersey, and Jack Knellwolf, 57, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, said they were excited to see the Vince Lombardi Trophy in person, but they were in town for a different reason.

“We just want to cheer and boo the Eagles, depending on whoever they pick [in the draft],” joked Knellwolf.

The NFL Draft Experience is free to the public and will be held on the Ben Franklin Parkway from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to 20th Street through Saturday, April 29. 

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