Fourth fun: Keeping with tradition

Posted: July 01, 2007

Philadelphia's greatest food and the world's strongest men teamed up to kick off the Fourth of July weekend yesterday as part of the Sunoco Welcome America festivities.

Tourists and Philadelphians alike sampled cheesesteaks and seafood at the second annual Taste of Philadelphia at Sixth and Market Streets from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event included 17 food and drink tents selling dishes from various Philadelphia restaurants.

"We always start our Fourth of July here. We come out and eat the food. It's really great, and the weather is even better than last year," said Marsha Impriano, a Philadelphia resident sampling cheesesteaks with her daughter Theresa.

A.J. Wilson, on his first visit to Philadelphia from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said, "I've been to the Taste of Chicago before and this stacks up pretty well to that, even though it's not as big."

The crowd eating on the lawn in front of the National Constitution Center mainly consisted of families bringing their children and grandchildren to see the city's historic sites.

Devin Kinney, 6, had been wanting to visit Philadelphia from his home in Baltimore for a while. According to his parents, Mike and Connie, he prefers watching the History Channel to cartoons and dresses in a blue-and-gold colonial soldier's uniform several times a week.

"I like Philadelphia. I liked seeing Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell," said Devin, who didn't find any food he wanted to try.

The chefs working in the tents all day said they enjoyed the event. "We had 4,000 people visit our tent last year and we have 500 pounds of steak today. The line just keeps coming," said Patrick Dougherty, owner of Steaks on South restaurant at 308 South St.

In the afternoon, visitors satisfied their hunger for action at Memorial Park. For the first time, Welcome America festivities included a Strongman competition. Among the events were a lightweight national championship and a team contest between five U.S. athletes and four European competitors.

"This event brought us out here because it's pretty astounding what these guys can do. There are more people out here than I expected," said Philadelphia native Dante DelVecchio, 25.

One of the competitors, Walt Gogola, is a Philadelphia native and graduate of Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster.

"I just love the chance to be able to compete in front of a home crowd. I have lots of friends and family out here," Gogola said.

The international athletes said they enjoyed the event, too. The two-time reigning world champion, Zydrunas Savickas of Lithuania, said, "I like Philadelphia. I want to see the Rocky steps before I leave."

The day's events wrapped up with a fireworks display and concert at Penn's Landing.

View a video of last night's fireworks at Penn's Landing at

Contact staff writer Katie Stuhldreher at 215-854-2601 or

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