The biggest daytime draw was the Unity Gospel Music Stage at Logan Circle, where 15 local and national performers put on a six-hour show for avid gospel fans and passersby.
``You need God any way you can get Him, and if He comes to you while you're sipping your soda or eating your popsicle, so be it,'' said Nora Fisher, 51, of North Philadelphia, enjoying her 15th consecutive Unity Day in a lawn chair.
Fisher stationed herself in front of the stage at 8:30 a.m., even though the first performance was not scheduled until noon. She is among a trio of Unity Day ``regulars,'' strict churchgoing gospel enthusiasts who skip services once a year to become front-row concert-goers.
Fisher and her friends, Mamie Rainey and Beverly Brockington, arrived early to sit comfortably through the marathon concert and avoid the late-arriving stream of spectators who watch, standing, from far back.
``I like to be blessed up close,'' said Brockington, 55, of North Philadelphia, smiling as she swayed to the rising sound of the choral performers.
The three women were part of a small cluster of gospel die-hards whose faces have become familiar to other Unity Day attendees.
``I see them every year, and they always beat me by about an hour,'' said Marie McNeill, 68, of Germantown, who has attended Unity Day since it began. Yesterday, she was seated one row behind the trio.
Unity Day capped off ``Days Of Unity,'' a weeklong festival sponsored by WDAS. The celebration - promoting unity among families as well as peace among people of all walks of Life - has come a long way in two decades, considering that only 250 people attended the station's first Unity Day, a picnic in Fairmount Park.
Four years after the inaugural event, organizers moved Unity Day to a small span of the Parkway between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and about 24th Street, said WDAS personality Jerry Wells. The event now lines the Parkway between the Art Museum and Logan Circle.
``It's a nice, family kind of thing,'' Wells said. ``I think people really get into that part. It's not a rowdy type of event.''
This year's crowd was even bigger because this was promoted as the 20th Unity Day, coupled with the presence of the visiting Gospel Music Workshop of America, whose members were holding a convention in Center City.
The gospel stage was a huge attraction, second only to the scheduled main-stage performances by big-name pop artists, he said. Also, for the first time, organizers preceded yesterday's concert with another big gospel concert Saturday at the Dell East in Fairmount Park.
The convention ``brought the entire gospel world to Philadelphia,'' Terrell said, ``and we brought them to the Parkway.''
The event's growing popularity has brought with it a price that some spectators said they found disturbing: an onslaught of vendors peddling everything from African American art to celebrity autographs, courtesy of Wal-Mart.
Each of the six stages set up along the Parkway was draped with the gigantic banners of their corporate sponsors. Dozens of other companies set up information tables in educational pavilions, where local hospitals offered free health screenings and companies gave out toothpaste and deodorant.
For Leonard McCoy, who brought his 4-year-old daughter, Shandel, to their first Unity Day, the event looked more like a big advertisement than a wholesome family event about peace and harmony.
``My first impression? They just wanted people to come out here and spend money,'' said McCoy, 45, of Yeadon. ``I'm hoping to see some displays and presentations to emphasize the unity we need, but all I'm seeing is commercialism.''
Nine-year-old Junior Enoch and his five face-painted siblings and cousins from North Philadelphia were far more forgiving.
``We like the music, the things that they gave us, the frisbee,'' Junior said as the children played in front of the Franklin Institute.
Ten-year-old Mealine Barbour offered perhaps the ultimate praise from the preteen crowd: ``It's the bomb.''