Wawa Welcome America Fourth of July celebration moves entirely online

Pat Loeb
May 12, 2020 - 3:58 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia’s annual Fourth of July extravaganza is moving entirely online this year. 

Officials announced the new format for the Wawa Welcome America festival on Tuesday at the city’s daily COVID-19 briefing.

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Welcome America CEO Michael DelBene said the celebration is being reimagined to include some aspects of the traditional event, like a concert, but it will not have any in-person elements.

“While we may not be able to gather in Philadelphia’s great public spaces this year, we are excited to give Philadelphians something to celebrate,” he said.

The concert will be held in a closed indoor venue, so people won’t be tempted to congregate.

The music line-up and other events — including whether or not there will be fireworks — will be announced at an unveiling scheduled for June 10. DelBene promises something memorable.

“Arts, culture, entertainment, history, education, all back again this year and all available for the comfort and safety at home,” he said.

The economic impact on the city will be much less than normal, but so will expenses. Mayor Jim Kenney said he’s happy that the event wasn’t canceled altogether.

“There’s nothing worse than taking 200,000 people in July, in the middle of a pandemic, and putting them on the Parkway so they can breathe on each other,” he added. “We want to have some ability for people to be energized to stay inside and watch proceedings, and it’ll keep them safer and keep them indoors.”

DelBene said he’s actually excited about the reach an online event can have, allowing the city to welcome not just America, but the whole world.

“While they are still in the comfort and safety of their home, they can still enjoy this strong tradition that happens in this city, far and above anything a live festival could ever hope for,” he said.

Large gatherings — like the Welcome America festival — will be the last element of pre-COVID-19 life to return, once the pandemic is controlled. Officials reported continued progress on that front, but with 224 new cases of the virus and 15 additional deaths, they say it’s too early to predict a date for reopening the city.

“There’s a clear sign that we’re making progress against this epidemic,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley, “but it’s still too early for us to be able to say we can reopen. We simply have too many cases.”

Philadelphia has confirmed 18,537 cases of the virus since the start of the crisis.

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For resources regarding COVID-19 in Philadelphia, visit phila.gov/covid-19 or call the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline at 1-800-722-7112.