Insects, wildfires, and Philly’s 100th mayor: Here are WHYY News’ most read stories of 2023

From Sixers arena drama to rain-activated poetry, there was something for everyone in 2023.

Haze covers Philadelphia, as seen from an aerial view

Haze covers Philadelphia on June 8, 2023 due to wildfire smoke. (Michael James Murray)

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A lot happened in 2023.

In the Philadelphia region, we saw history-making elections, wild public health emergencies, and championships that could have been.

And, of course, we had some fun along the way.

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Here’s a look back through the lens of this year’s most read stories from WHYY News.

Cherelle Parker makes history

One of the biggest storylines this year was Cherelle Parker being elected as the city’s 100th mayor — the first woman and first Black woman to hold the post.

Rue Landau also became Philadelphia’s first-ever openly LGBTQ City Council member, and Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O’Rourke won at-large seats on Philly City Council, marking a historic win for the Working Families Party.

Philly grapples with an unfamiliar threat: wildfire smoke

The Delaware Valley was blanketed with wildfire smoke from Canada, prompting (for some) a newfound understanding of how wildfire smoke impacts our health.

Other climate-related threats were seen in the form of extreme rain, as with the deadly flooding in Bucks County and extreme heat that closed Philly schools.

And a water contamination mishap

A Delaware River spill shed light on the art of emergency preparedness (or lack thereof) and the prevalence of tap water trust issues in Philly.

People holding up signs protesting the potential new arena for the Sixers in Chinatown.
The Chinatown Coalition to Oppose the Arena walked members of the media to the site of the proposed 76ers basketball venue in Philadelphia on January 9, 2023. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

To arena, or not to arena?

Questions (and plenty of feelings) over the Sixers’ proposed arena were a near constant.

Intrigue in health and science

In the health and science realm, Philadelphians were stunned over the sudden eviction of the Insectarium. Months after its closure, the fallout continues.

At Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, missing YouTube videos and online exhibits reflected tough conversations both at the institution and across the U.S. over displaying human remains.

Local characters

In the Garden State, beloved entities like the Bread Lady of Cape May and reimagined spaces like the Palace of Depression captured your attention.

Trees, trees, trees

Recreational marijuana became legal in Delaware, prompting many to wonder: what can – and can’t – you do?

Other trees of interest in the First State? Woodlands, to the tune of 43,000 acres of forest that have been cleared for development in Sussex County.

Suburban miscellany

Philadelphia’s suburbs, as they are wont to do, acted as a microcosm of the country, reflecting nationwide trends in disparate health care access across Chester County and book ban controversies that gave way to a Democratic sweep in Central Bucks.

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There was also more than one prison escape, with one two-week search in Chesco drawing national attention.

A statue of a baseball player is seen against the night sky
Thousands gathered at Citizens Bank Park for the Philadelphia Phillies first ever Game 7 on Oct. 24, 2023. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

A dose of sorrow

We dreamed of glory on the field, and we almost got there.

The Eagles ripped our hearts out in Super Bowl LVII, and the Phillies said, “Hold my beer,” coming up shy of a second-straight World Series appearance.

And a dose of fun

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom in 2023. We had our share of fun and mystery, diving into the world of talking pets, soaking up rain-activated poetry, and learning the mythology of North Philly.

Here’s to more memories in 2024.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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