Festivities frame the Fourth

The 4th of July parade will step off at 11 a.m. Wednesday and wind around the historic district.
The 4th of July parade will step off at 11 a.m. Wednesday and wind around the historic district. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 30, 2012

Nobody gives a birthday party for the USA like Philadelphia, and for Uncle Sam's 236th, Wawa Welcome America! has a glorious celebration planned with fireworks, concerts, lots of food, and children's activities.

On Friday morning, the Go 4th and Learn series is at the Philadelphia Zoo. From 10 a.m. to noon, there will be all sorts of hands-on activities throughout America's first zoo, particularly with rare and endangered species such as lemurs from Madagascar, mole rats, and tree kangaroos.

"The Go 4th and Learn is what I like best about the 10 days," said Melanie Johnson, city representative and the executive director of Wawa Welcome America! "It never gets old to have children come into a venue like the zoo or the Franklin Institute and see their eyes light up at something new and exciting for them."

At night, from 5 to 9 p.m., the kickoff for Taste of Philadelphia is scheduled at Penn's Landing, a fiesta of food and music performances. In addition to stands from the city's storied restaurants, this year a slew of food trucks will line the Chestnut Street Bridge over I-95 to Penn's Landing. There will be jazz and blues music at the RiverStage on the landing and at the Old City Stage near Front and Chestnut Streets.

On Saturday, Taste of Philadelphia will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Nearby in the parking lot at Walnut Street and Columbus Boulevard, ice-cream-o-philes will have their day at the Super Scooper All-You-Can-Eat Ice Cream Festival from noon to 9 p.m. Admission is $7, and the money goes to the Joshua Kahan Fund, which works toward a cure for pediatric cancer. Saturday's events will end after a fireworks display over the Delaware River at dusk.

Taste of Philadelphia comes back Sunday with a gospel theme along Penn's Landing. Gospel choirs will be performing from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. along the landing. The Super Scooper Festival will resume at Walnut and Columbus Boulevard from noon to 7 p.m.

Monday will bring Philly Night at the Movies to the Dell Music Center in Fairmount Park at 9 p.m. The feature flick is the 2007 Tyler Perry movie Why Did I Get Married? for which Philadelphia native Jill Scott was nominated for an NAACP Image award as outstanding actress in a motion picture.

Tuesday evening brings the annual Philly Pops concert, "Pops! On Independence," at 8 p.m. at Independence Hall, Sixth and Chestnut Streets. Peter Nero and the Philly Pops are scheduled to do a run of patriotic and traditional songs. Bring a blanket or lawn chairs and flags to wave along Independence Mall to the music.

The big day, of course, is Wednesday, the 4th of July. As usual, it starts at 10 a.m. with the official Celebration of Freedom ceremony at Independence Hall. There will be patriotic music, inspirational speeches, and readings from the Declaration of Independence.

"It is amazing to be there at that time and realize that this is where our Founding Fathers walked more than 200 years ago at this time," Johnson said. "It is a time to reflect on the events that are current and how they tie into what those Founding Fathers were thinking back then."

Following the official ceremony, the Philadelphia Independence Day Parade will commence at 11 a.m. More than 5,000 people - from marching bands to military groups and performers on floats - will wind their way around the historic district. It will be a tribute to the 10th Independence Day since the 9/11 attacks.

After the parade, it is time to hightail it over to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the noon-to-7 p.m. Party on the Parkway, between 20th Street and the Eakins Oval. Food of all sorts, three stages for music, art activities for children, and a variety of impromptu sporting events and games will dot the Parkway. Radio Disney will be there with face-painting, music performances, and craft-making for the Disney-centric.

All of the celebrations culminate Wednesday evening with the Philly 4th of July Jam and Grand Finale Fireworks, starting at 7 p.m. along the Parkway. Philadelphia's own ?uestlove (Ahmir Thompson) will be producing a show that will have his band, the Roots, Queen Latifah, Common, Daryl Hall, and Joe Jonas (plus some surprises, said Johnson - Boyz II Men, for example, showed up as a surprise last year). Following the concert, about 10 p.m., there will be those Grand Finale Fireworks over the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

For more information about the Wawa Welcome America! festivities, go to www.wawawelcomeamerica.com or the Facebook page www.facebook.com/wawawelcomeamerica.

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