Rain in Philadelphia for Made in America

Posted: September 02, 2014

Day 2 of the Made in America festival turned soggy and briefly scary Sunday night, as lightning and heavy rain forced organizers to stop the music and make fans leave - then call them back when the weather improved.

The come-and-go drama began shortly past 6:30 p.m., when drenching rains and flashes of lightning sent thousands of sopping concert-goers, some of them inebriated, out the gates and onto the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Some hopped into the Logan Square fountain.

"If it's going to be canceled, you better make the most of it," a South Jersey teenager said before jumping in. Her friend took rainy refuge under a tree, along with several police officers and a young couple who were making out.

A chant went up of "USA! USA! USA!" as people waited to see whether the event might resume. About 40 minutes later, the gates were reopened and the show went back on, creating a scramble as people reversed course and headed toward the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Tickets and bags were not being checked the second time around, at least not initially.

But the rain, thunder, and lightning created what city officials and concert promoters always worried about: a situation that forced everyone to leave at once. On Sunday night, though, people were relaxed as they made a mass exodus, and police said they had no reports of injuries.

The lines for food, bathrooms, and beer, nonexistent when the rain fell, quickly became long when the music resumed about 7:40.

Sam Parry and his brother Edwin, of West Chester, said the vibe changed after the rain delay - for the better.

"It's more alive," Edwin Parry said. "No one cares about what they're wearing 'cause we're all wearing . . . wet."

Vanessa Scafe of Boston and Genesis Giraldo of New York were two of the only people seeking refuge under an umbrella.

"We're already soaked," Scafe said. "We're just trying to protect our phones at this point."

By 8:45 p.m., it was pouring again.

Kate Dysart and her friend Nayele Tran had come well stocked and fully prepared: water bottles, rain boots, drawstring bags, cellphone chargers, and, most important, toilet paper.

"The port-a-potties are great for the first few hours, but then they run out of toilet paper and people run out of inhibitions," said Dysart, 22, a student at Pennsylvania State University Abington. "It just gets gross."

The third year of Budweiser Made in America, as usual, drew tens of thousands of people from across the Northeastern United States, turning the parkway into an electric outdoor venue. Dozens of top performers appeared on multiple stages, the stylings ranging from Pharrell Williams to Kings of Leon to Penguin Prison.

Tran, 23, wanted to hear Tiesto, having become hooked on electronic dance music as a way to detach and calm her mind.

"You just leave everything behind," she said. "Like, 'I don't want to feel,' but in a good way."

Sunday's performances began at 1:15, but many people did not arrive until late afternoon, planning to stay into the night. They came with flowers in their hair, and red, white, and blue top hats on their heads, the crowd mostly young.

This year, the festival went bicoastal, with a simultaneous event in Los Angeles that had better weather.

Meagan Pontoski, 20, of Cheltenham, said the first day of the festival was perfect, with a great performance by Kanye West and comfortable temperatures.

"Not too hot or cold," she said. "Good hair day, no frizz."

She and her friends slept in the morning of day two, arriving at Suburban Station about 4 p.m. and heading toward the festival gates. The afternoon weather - humid, gray, and threatening rain - did not bode well for straightened hair.

A 4:30 p.m. sun shower soaked everyone and helped Dominic Mazza of Broomall make money.

"Rain ponchos! Rain ponchos! Two for five dollars!" he shouted, clutching a handful of clear plastic slickers as crowds moved past.

"I'm always prepared, man," he said. "I have them ready to go, just in case. Anything to make a buck."

It was a day for money, and not just for Budweiser.

Vendors sold bottles of cold water. Scalpers hurried to unload their wares, as standard, one-day tickets were still available at the box office Sunday afternoon.

"I won these on the radio, but I've got to go to work," said a man seeking to sell two tickets.

Michael Gall, 40, of West Berlin, did a brisk business selling $5 flag bandannas. And Liam Kelly, a co-owner of Con Murphy's Irish pub, said Made in America enlivened what could have been a dead Labor Day weekend.

"We probably wouldn't be open for business without it," he said.

Police said they encountered few problems, all connected to underage drinking, some on inbound trains.

"It's a lighter crowd today. But the trains are still full, every one," SEPTA Police Capt. James Reynolds said.

Minutes earlier, when a train from Villanova arrived at Suburban Station, the hum of hundreds of music lovers, all walking and talking, amplified to a roar in the corridors. Even so, police said, the crowd seemed more somber than on Saturday.

Tran and Dysart bought their tickets Friday night from an online, third-party website, paying $70 apiece. Face value was $89.50, and it rose with fees, Tran said.

They arrived at the concert about 4 p.m., unconcerned about missing the first few hours.

"I can't be there 12 hours," said Dysart, who was excited to see Kings of Leon. "They should really sell half-day tickets."


jparks@phillynews.com

610-313-8117

@JS_Parks

Inquirer staff writer Joseph N. DiStefano contributed to this article.

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