Along with sister stations in Clear Channel's radio chain, Philly's first Jingle Ball convened in December 2000 at the Electric Factory with Pink and Lenny Kravitz, before moving to the Susquehanna Bank Center in 2004, and coming to the larger Wells Fargo in 2011.
Q102 on-air personality Maxwell, who's also assistant program director and music director, says, "I've watched it grow, literally and figuratively" - size of venue, and production values, which, he says, are "bigger this year than ever," and the addition of Clear Channel's digital side, iHeartRadio.
The event is a way to thank both fans, Maxwell says, and artists, a chance to "celebrate the specific names and faces that we have supported and played."
Different markets in the Clear Channel chain get different personalities for their Jingle Balls. Miley Cyrus is doing the Washington date, but not Philly - a matter of scheduling, Maxwell says.
Artists integral to Philly are always on the bill. Case in point: Austin Mahone, who, as Maxwell explains, "is very tied to Philly. Mahone was launched in Philly as part of an online content game Q102 started a year and a half ago. "We made it so his fans could vote for him to be our 'Next Big Thing,' and they did, and he is," Maxwell says. "They voted him to be a celebrity, and he got that honor in Philly before he signed any deals."
And then there are the perennials. At the top of that list, according to Maxwell, is Flo Rida. "He's like putting Ryan Howard in every home game," says Maxwell. "You know you're going to get someone who is going to give his all."
Flo Rida laughs at the comparison. Like Avril Lavigne and Jason Derulo, he's in regular rotation when it comes to the Jingle Ball. He's busy finishing up his newest album, The Perfect 10, with singles on which he sings with the late Nina Simone ("How I Feel") and Latin emcee Pitbull ("Can't Believe It").
But for Flo Rida, everything stops when Jingle Ball calls. "When I started out in the biz, I never realized the power" of the events, he says. "Once you're in the middle of one of them, it's awesome."
He laughs at a memory of the 2011 Philly Jingle Ball, in which he got so caught up in the awesomeness, he ripped his shirt off, to wild applause. "I was so happy the fans loved what I was doing," he says, "I'd give them the shirt off my back."
There are also rookies such as Fifth Harmony - the all-girl vocal ensemble famed for their stint on The X Factor - who wanted in on the Ball. By speakerphone, Ally Brooke Hernandez, Normani Hamilton, Dinah Jane Hansen, Camila Cabello, and Lauren Jauregui yell out the reasons they wanted to participate. "There's amazing talent there, to be around and be part of," Hansen says. She says they'll be singing tunes from their debut EP, Better Together. "It's an honor just to be invited," says Cabello, who says their production will be fun, "but not Lady Gaga crazy."
Jingle Ball isn't about hits alone. There is the charitable aspect. "I think it's cool they hooked with Ryan Seacrest's Foundation and [that they give] a dollar from each ticket to his pediatric hospital plan," says Flo Rida. "[T]hat charity defines what giving back really means."
Q102 Jingle Ball
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Wells Fargo Center
Tickets $39.50-$250, comcasttix.com.