All you need to know about Philly’s 2023 Wawa Welcome America Festival
It’s the 30th version of the celebration series and the milestone means the spectacle is bigger than ever.
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Wawa’s Welcome America Festival returned to Philly this month with a 16-day itinerary that includes block parties, concerts, free museums, fireworks, and of course, Free Hoagie Day. This year marks Welcome America Inc.’s 30th iteration of the series, which is considered one of the largest free festivals in the country.
In 2021, Welcome America Festival partnered with the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) and Visit Philadelphia to extend the tradition, incorporating the Juneteenth holiday into its programming. With over 60 events taking place throughout Philadelphia, the festival boasts a packed schedule suitable for the entire family.
Welcome America Fest kicked off June 19 with a Block Party hosted by The African American Museum. The event celebrated Juneteenth — the anniversary of enslaved African-Americans in Texas receiving word that slavery was abolished by the federal government. They provided further education on the holiday, which wasn’t recognized by the federal government until 2020, and explained its deep historical and cultural connections to Independence Day.
AAMP also allowed free entry into its space for a special exhibition during the event, joining over a dozen museums admitting people for free during the festival. A few museums opening their doors for a day include: The Wagner Free Institute of Science, Woodmere Art Museum, Masonic Temple, Library and Museum, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Barnes Foundation, and Eastern State Penitentiary.
In addition to the Juneteenth Block Party, there were even more community celebrations to be held at the Einstein Medical Center, and The Avenue Of The Arts. Those who attended the Foterral Square Community Day June 27 saw performances from the West Powelton Steppers and Sixers Stixers, and got a chance to participate in games and giveaways with players from the Philadelphia Union.
The multi-week festival also held ceremonies honoring important groups within the Philadelphia community. On June 20, Welcome.US unveiled a multicultural art, dance, and food exhibition to celebrate World Refugee Day at LOVE Park. The Celebration of Freedom Ceremony will take place at Independence Hall July 4, with remarks from Mayor Jim Kenney, music from the Black Pearl Orchestra, and the presentation of awards to local community leaders including the Mayor’s Magis Award, the Wawa Foundation Hero Award, and The Celebrate Freedom Award.
There will also be a day dedicated to Wawa’s signature sandwiches. June 28 has been officially deemed Free Hoagie Day, and the area’s staple everything-store plans on giving away seven tons of free hoagies.
Welcome America also has a slew of concerts planned for their festival. The Concilio Hispanic Fiesta made its annual return June 24-25, celebrating the rich culture of Hispanic communities throughout Philadelphia. The two-day event included musical performances from Manny Manuel and El Canario, a live art installation by Ayiana Viviana, and health screenings, and nutrition programs provided by Independence Blue Cross Blue Shield. Additional concerts include Kidchella, The U.S. Army Field Band & Soldiers’ Chorus, Gospel On Independence, and a performance from Grammy, Oscar, and Golden Globe winner Vanessa Williams.
The extensive programming comes to a grand finale on July 4 with a star-studded lineup of DJ Diamond Kuts, Snacktime, Demi Lovato, and Ludacris. The night will end with a blazing fireworks display presented by Wawa.
The Wawa Welcome America Festival aims to continue its tradition of honoring Philadelphians. Hundreds of organizers, artists, and community leaders have worked together to put on a proper display of their deep appreciation for the city.
The festival begins June 19 and ends July 4. Admission to all events are free.
SEPTA is the PHILLY WAY TO GO to the Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert and Fireworks on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway! The Parkway is an easy walk from Suburban Station if you come by Regional Rail or 19th Street or 22nd Street Stations if you come by Trolley. Bus Routes 7, 32, 38, 43, and 49 also serve the Parkway area. Plan your trip at ISEPTAPHILLY.COM/PLAN-YOUR-TRIP!