Celebrating the Fourth - before and after

Fireworks over the Delaware River.
Fireworks over the Delaware River. (Tony Webb, Office of the City Representative)
Posted: July 03, 2013

Remember when Independence Day was just that - a day? One that kicked off with Sousa bands and stirring orations, progressed through charred hot dogs, sunburns, and sparklers, and came too quickly to its razzle-dazzle end in the early night sky?

Over the years, as American holidays are wont to do, the Fourth of July ballooned into the long weekend, and the even-longer weekend, until it became a mini-season crammed with more goings-on than Uncle Sam could shake his famous forefinger at.

This year across the region, the nation's birthday celebrations - its 237th, arriving Thursday - will last a good three days after.

In between, brush up on your history, strut with Mummers by the sea, get your groove back on the Ben Franklin Parkway, and wave a little flag to the star-spangled anthems of Peter Nero and the Philly Pops at Independence Hall.

This will be the 34th year that the Grammy Award-winning conductor/pianist will provide part of the soundtrack for the city's festivities. He will "do what I do every year," Nero said recently - though with the addition of a piece he composed for a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

The holiday, he said, strikes an emotional chord in him.

"It's our country, and things are not as smooth as they could be," he said. But "we're working on it with a positive attitude."

No surprise, the big bang in the shebang this year will be produced by Welcome America!, marking its 20th anniversary. The Wawa-sponsored festival gears up Monday, reaches a crescendo on the Ben Franklin Parkway Thursday night with a star-packed concert and fireworks, and runs out of steam only on Sunday.

For the first time, the ballyhooed "Largest Free Concert in America" - the Philly 4th of July Jam with the Roots, John Mayer, Demi Lovato, Jill Scott, Ne-Yo, Grace Potter, J. Cole, Ben Taylor, and host Kevin Hart - will be nationally telecast live by VH1, the MTV Networks channel, as well as on 6ABC.

"We are excited to tell the rest of the country that we own the Fourth of July, like for many years has owned New Year's Eve," said Desiree Peterkin-Bell, executive director of 2013 Wawa Welcome America!

So color your schedule red, white, and blue for the next week, at least:


If you survived Mummers Night in Ocean City, be at the Sixth Street beach by 9 a.m. for the season's first sand-sculpting contest.

Afterward, head to the Cape May Lighthouse for Family Fun Day, which is exactly as it sounds: a day of family activities, live music, and a lighthouse tour - all free of charge.

Then hightail it back to Philadelphia by 8 p.m. for Peter Nero and the Philly Pops at Independence Hall. The concert is free; bring the chairs and blankets you used at the Shore.

Thursday, July 4

Morning in the city may bring you to 239 Arch St., former home of the nation's most famous seamstress. The Betsy Ross House will host children's activities starting at 11.

At the same time, 5,000 participants will be stepping off in front of Independence Hall for the Independence Day Parade through Philadelphia's historic core.

There's no time for a nap before the party moves to the Parkway at noon, capped off in the evening with the Philly 4th of July Jam and the grand finale fireworks.

For a Shore equivalent, try Atlantic City's fireworks at the Borgata, beginning about 9 p.m. The light show is created by the "first family of fireworks," Grucci.

Friday, July 5

Had your fill of the Philadelphia food scene? That's the goal of Wawa Welcome America!'s Taste of Philadelphia at Penn's Landing, noon to 10 p.m. The feasting continues Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday, July 6

All aboard the Ben Franklin Yacht for the Annual Fireworks Cruise, a three-hour voyage on the Delaware from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., with buffet, cash bar, and entertainment. White attire is requested. Boarding will be at 7 at Pier 24 North at 401 N. Columbus Blvd. Price: $59 for adults, $29 children 4 to 12, free 3 and under.

It might just be the best seat on the river for the Adventure Aquarium Waterfront Fireworks Spectacular at 9:15.

Sunday, July 7

Last chance to sample eats of the region at Wawa Welcome America!'s Taste of Philadelphia at Penn's Landing. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Contact Allie Caren at 215-854-2301 or acaren@philly.com.

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