On eve of Made in America festival, hope and questions

Posted: August 31, 2012

After you've picked up a cold Budweiser at the Bud Bar, you might wander over to the Bud Beach Deck, the Bud Club, the Bud Backyard, or Bud Park.

Did we mention that Budweiser is sponsoring the two-day Made in America music festival on the Parkway?

Philadelphia's famous public mile is turning commercial this Labor Day weekend, hosting its first ticket-holders-only event. Up to 50,000 a day are expected at the fest, headlined by Jay-Z on Saturday and Pearl Jam on Sunday. A dual-fence barrier is being erected around the grounds, and on Thursday much remained to be done at the site.

The expense of the event to taxpayers has become an issue.

This week at a City Hall news conference, Mayor Nutter declined to say how much the festival would cost. He said that the promoters would bear most of the costs and that the overall benefits to the city would be great.

The Inquirer has asked the mayor's office to provide copies of agreements between the city and the concert agents.

On Thursday, Nutter issued a statement saying that the festival already was producing significant gains through increased hotel-room bookings.

"Labor Day weekend is normally a quiet holiday for the hospitality industry in the city," the mayor said. "But the early reports we're getting indicate substantially increased activity in our Center City hotels."

Historically, Labor Day weekend is slow for hotels, according to Ed Grose of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association. But "this forthcoming weekend my members are telling me that they are doing very well," and "the only different factor this year is the Budweiser Made in America Festival."

On Facebook, people say they're coming from across the country and around the world: Colorado, Canada, Tennessee, Connecticut, New York, Australia, Venezuela, and Washington, D.C.

Music will begin at 2 p.m. and end at 11 each day. Almost all Parkway museums and institutions will be open. And neighbors are watching to see what happens.

"Cautiously optimistic," said Spring Garden Civic Association president Antoinette Levitt. "We don't know what it will be."

There are sure to be parking troubles and trash dropped on sidewalks - that always happens during Parkway events. And that's part of the price for living in a city that hosts big, exciting events, she said.

"People have to be more tolerant and realize, 'Is this really affecting the quality of your life for the long run?' It might be a few hours" of inconvenience.

Levitt said she won't attend the festival but plans to walk through the area to get a sense of things.

Road closures along the Parkway and in sections of the Fairmount neighborhood began Tuesday and continue to accelerate. At 6:30 p.m. Friday, the entire event area will be closed to traffic, reopening in time for the Tuesday morning rush hour.

SEPTA is adding service, and Nutter has urged concertgoers and Parkway visitors to use public transportation. SEPTA is providing bus service to and from a parking site at the Mann Center.

The main entrance to the festival is at 22d Street and the Parkway. The main stage at the Art Museum steps, called the Rocky Stage, is flanked to the north by the Liberty Stage and to the south by the Park Stage. Von Colln Memorial Field hosts the Freedom Tent, a fourth stage.

The Pennsylvania NAACP is joining with the nonpartisan HeadCount group to register concertgoers to vote. "Concerts like this are a great venue to connect with young folks who have yet to register," said John Jordan, civil-engagement coordinator for the state NAACP. The registration area will be just inside the main entrance.

Both two- and one-day tickets remain available.

"It looks like someone's putting on a world's fair," said David Searles, president of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association. "No one knows what to expect."

Some people are leaving town for the weekend, some are staying. Some are worried, and some think the festival will run smoothly.

"I guess," Searles said, "we just have to wait and see."


Contact Jeff Gammage

at 215-854-2415, jgammage@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @JeffGammage.

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