History and Hoagies: Wawa Welcome America Details Announced
This year's celebrations will feature the familiar free hoagies and museum days, music, and fireworks, plus a few new twists.
From June 29 through July 4, the 25th annual Wawa Welcome America Celebration will return to Philadelphia, featuring more than 50 free events and activities around this year’s theme: “Everyone is a History Maker.”
Organizers announced on Tuesday that visitors can expect new events and activities as well as “twists” on old favorites. On June 29 at noon, the festival will begin with a staple: free Wawa hoagies at Independence Mall and the National Constitution Center.
“Anywhere you look, 360, is history and hoagies,” said Chris Gheysens, president and CEO of Wawa.
Other activities include free admission to 10 museums, four fireworks shows, and free concerts on July 4 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, featuring the Kidz Bop Kids at 1 pm and performances by Mary J. Blige and Mandy Gonzalez from Hamilton starting at 7 pm.
“Every year when we celebrate our independence, the nation looks to Philadelphia because it was here that everything started,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “It’s only fitting that Philadelphia has the best celebration each year.”
As part of its Go 4th and Learn initiative, PECO will host interactive activities and educational demonstrations about American history, financial literacy, science and technology, fitness, and arts and culture to encourage education while school is out. Beneficial Bank will travel to the Go 4th and Learn activities to encourage financial literacy through games and activities. Books in Homes USA, an organization that provides low-income families with books for children, will distribute 9,000 free books.
Go 4th and Learn activities will take place at Fairhill Square on July 1 from 2 to 4 pm, featuring dance performances and lessons and storytime with a guest reader. The first 500 children will receive a free book.
Go 4th and Learn: Rocky Edition will take place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps on July 2 at 6:30 pm, featuring fitness challenges, boxing demonstrations, and storytime with a Rocky impersonator. The first 1,000 children will receive a free book.
There will also be three outdoor movie showings presented by St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children: a movie to be announced at the Piazza at Schmidt’s on June 29 at 8 pm, Rocky at the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps on July 2 at 8 pm, and Sing in Franklin Square on July 3 at 9 pm.
Museums with free admission days include the National Constitution Center, the African American History Museum, the Barnes Foundation, and the National Liberty Museum. The full list of free museum days is available online at WelcomeAmerica.com.
The official viewing sites for fireworks on June 30, July 1, and July 4 are the Delaware River Waterfront, SugarHouse Casino, and One Liberty Observation Deck.
Welcome America, Inc. President and CEO Jeff Guaracino said in addition to promoting American history and education in Philadelphia, the festival is about building community.
“It’s about joy and happy times and bringing Philadelphia together,” he said. “It’s when Philadelphia and our neighbors come to participate … That’s the soul of Wawa Welcome America.”
Photography by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.