City prepares to welcome Made in America concert

Posted: August 31, 2013

The only music that floated across the grounds of the Budweiser Made in America venue Thursday was the metal-on-metal clank of hammers.

That and the squawk of radios directing work crews to different locations, as the Benjamin Franklin Parkway rapidly transformed into a fenced site for the big Labor Day weekend concert.

"It's pretty amazing," said Maryellen Moorehead, who stood and watched as workers moved through and around the giant stage at the foot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

In town from Pittsburgh to visit her daughter, a sophomore at Drexel University, Moorehead thought she just might get a ticket and stay to see the two-day show.

The festival features three dozen top musical acts, all chosen by hip-hop impresario Jay Z, headlined by Beyoncé on Saturday and Nine Inch Nails on Sunday.

The weather forecast calls for warm and humid conditions Saturday, with showers or thunderstorms on Sunday. Made in America is billed as a rain or shine event.

City officials advise that in the event of severe weather, people should listen for announcements and have a plan in mind if they're asked to leave the Parkway and take shelter. They can text "PHILA" to 411911 from their phone, and should already have signed up at www.readynotifypa.org for text and e-mail alerts.

On Thursday, near the Rocky statue outside the Art Museum, George Dockery was selling Philadelphia T-shirts and cold drinks - and looking forward to the concert, not for the music but for the chance to make money. He'll be outside the gates, selling his wares.

"This helps a whole lot," he said.

Meanwhile, police cars with flashing lights blocked the interior lanes of the Parkway at 20th Street. Strips of lights and lanterns hung to the rear of the Washington Monument in Eakins Oval. To the north stood row upon row of port-o-potties.

All around, fences were up or going up, creating a temporary outdoor venue for the second ticketed event in the nearly 100-year history of the Parkway. Last year's event was the first.

City officials see Made in America as helping Philadelphia position itself as a setting for major American music stars - and improving the bottom line. Officials estimate the economic impact of hosting Made in America to be at least $10 million.

Last year, neighbors along the Parkway worried that the combination of hot sun, long hours, and plentiful alcohol would mean trouble. Instead, police made only one arrest among 80,000 music fans.

Some neighbors complained about trash and public urination, and of the large crowds that moved through the streets when the music ended.

"Made in America works for Philadelphia on two levels: the dollars that come with high-hotel occupancy and restaurants catering to thousands, and the long-term status of hosting the festival," said Meryl Levitz, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp.

Hotels are booked this weekend, helped by the four-day Narcotics Anonymous World Convention that's being held for the first time in Philadelphia.

"Both events have resulted in nearly 100 percent hotel occupancy over a historically slow time in Philadelphia," said Khaila Edward, communications manager for the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The festival is important not only to the city but also to Budweiser, whose presence dominates the grounds.

Music is an extremely personal experience, and people develop lifelong relationships with certain artists or songs, said Paul Chibe, vice president of U.S. marketing for Anheuser-Busch. Through Made in America, the company seeks to be part of that connection, to be present in that tie between music and fan.

"People had an overwhelmingly positive experience at the festival last year," he said. "That connects to, 'That experience was enabled and brought to me by Budweiser.' . . . You build that association, and it's something that people carry through their lives."

That helps grow beer sales over time.

"It's something that's a slow build," he said. "It's an investment in our brand."

During meetings, Jay Z pushed the idea that the walls between musical genres were falling, Chibe said. Today, someone might be a fan of Nine Inch Nails and Beyoncé - and rap, rock, and electronic dance music. Music has become largely disassociated from race and age, and Jay Z considered that when he picked the diverse acts for Made in America, Chibe said.

The festival draws fans from across the East Coast. And officials are advising them to take public transportation to the event. Road closures began early this week, will increase up to the start of the festival on Saturday, and extend through Tuesday.

Of course, some people who visited the Art Museum area Thursday weren't interested in the show. For them, the construction meant only that it was hard to get around.

Goran Cedevski, who works in Atlantic City, brought his father, Marim, who is visiting from Macedonia, to the museum steps. The older man stripped off his shirt and posed next to the Rocky statue, thrusting his arms in the air like the fictional boxer.

"He's stronger than Rocky," the son said.


For a full list of road closures and other concert information, see www.phila.gov.

Contact Jeff Gammage at 215-854-4906, jgammage@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @JeffGammage.

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