Philly knows how to throw a party, especially when it comes to celebrating Independence Day. Parades, free concerts and other activities happening all over the city included a star-studded televised ceremony and a concert and fireworks display to make America proud. Here’s everything you might have missed during the Independence Day celebrations last week.
Celebration of Freedom Ceremony & Salute to America Independence Day Parade
Independence Hall (520 Chestnust St.) is a celebrated historical landmark, but city residents and tourists alike develop a new appreciation for the building that defined American history on Independence Day. On the morning of July 4, the festivities began with the Celebration of Freedom Ceremony on the famous steps. The ceremony kicked off the traditional bell ringing and raising the American flag, and the Philly POPS Big Band playing “The Star Spangled Banner”.
The awards began with recognizing one former Eagles player whose Philly impact goes beyond football. Mayor Jim Kenney stepped up to the podium to present the 2019 Magis Award to former Eagles defensive end Connor Barwin. Barwin was recognized for his effforts to improve Philly parks and playgrounds through his foundation Make the World Better, which he founded in 2013. Eagles center Jason Kelce joined Barwin onstage. Philadelphia icon Patti LaBelle made an appearance onstage to accept a Philadelphia Liberty Bell award, which shortly follows the city honoring the singer by renaming a section of South Broad St. “Patti LaBelle Way”. She also read excerpts from the “Declaration of Independence”.
The Wawa Foundation presented their Hero Award to recognize a non-profit organization working to build and strenghten communities. Public voters chose four finalists by voting online, and the award was presented to the Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports. The organization will receive a $50,000 grant from the foundation. Finalists ASAP/After School Activities Partnerships, Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence and Esparanza will also receive grants from the foundation.
After the ceremony, more than 80,000 spectators lined up along the parade route throughout Philly’s Historical District to watch the Wawa “Salute to America” Independence Day Parade after the ceremony. The parade featured a number of floats, performances and music. Highlights include the “George Washington Crossing the Delaware Float” and a tribute to gay rights marchers with “On the Road to Stonewall Float.”
Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert & Fireworks
Activities, food trucks and free music lined the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to get the party started in the early afternoon, but an estimated 200,000 people surrounded main stage for the biggest event of the day.
Academy Award-winning actress and “American Idol” finalist Jennifer Hudson opened the show with a powerful montage celebrating women, dedicating it to all the ladies in the crowd. The sleeves on her silver oufit fluttered as she strutted across the stage, and Hudson showed her talent for winning over entire audiences. With the help of the Philly POPS Big Band, she sang a variety of songs showing off both her gospel influences and pop hits. She held up the microphone while the audience sang along to “Spotlight”, and everyone cheered when she hit and held the high notes she’s known for. Hudson asked the crowd to join her during a moving cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, a song she called one of her favorites to perform. Hudson ended her set with her ballad “And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going” to cheers from the crowd.
Hudson is a tough act to follow, but singer Meghan Trainor brought her stunning vocals and fun interactions with the audience to help wrap up the evening. She started her performance with her hit “All About That Bass” to get the crowd in a mood to dance, but she also showed how she can be more subduded. She played a few songs from her upcoming album “Treat Myself” which included some more laid-back songs. Her set blended her own music with a few well-chosen covers, including “Dancing Queen” by ABBA.
The night ended with the annual fireworks display over the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Crowds lined up to watch the fireworks from right by the Museum, all the way down to Logan Circle. The show beat a record for fireworks displays over the Art Museum. More than 18,000 fireworks dazzled the crowd to wrap up a week of celebrating American independence in its birthplace.