Philadelphians and tourists enjoy festivities ahead of party on the Parkway

A group of people stand on the side of the street, holding the American flag and smiling.

From left to right, Sean Rankin, Rosa Rivera, Nyla Gonzalez, and Major Butler enjoy the Fourth of July parade on Market Street. (Sam Searles/WHYY News)

Old City and Logan Square became a melting pot of culture today as Philadelphia turned out to celebrate the Fourth of July. From the Celebration of Freedom ceremony and parade on Independence Mall, to the vendors and music leading up to the evening’s party on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, tourists and Philadelphians of all ages were out in droves despite the heat.

The morning began with a ceremony at Independence Hall celebrating contributors to freedom across the city, country, and world. The event included singing by Miss America Emma Broyles, performances by Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, and a reading of a section of the Declaration of Independence by Ukranian dignitaries Iryna Mazur and Sergiy Kyslytsya.

Three members of the Lenape tribe walk down the street.
Three members of the Lenape tribe open the Salute to Independence parade on Market Street. (Sam Searles/WHYY News)

In her Celebration of Freedom speech, State Park Superintendent Cindy MacLeod said it’s just four years until the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

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“We’re all aware of how much the world has changed over the last 250 years and just how tough the last couple of years have been for us,” she said. “The need for understanding our history has never, never been greater. The need for participating in our democracy has never been greater.”

Protest disrupts the parade

A short walk away, the Salute to America Independence Day parade headed down Market Street towards City Hall. As floats, dancers, musicians, and cultural groups made their way through Old City, abortion rights activists dressed in green disrupted the parade with green smoke bombs. While they were quickly escorted off of the parade route, organizer Miriam Oppenheimer from Rise Up for Abortion Rights didn’t seem deterred.

Protesters walk down the street amid green smoke with a sign that reads, "Legal Abortion Nationwide Now!".
Protestors from Rise Up for Abortion Rights jump into the beginnings of the Salute to Independence parade. (Sam Searles/WHYY)

“We are frustrated at the Supreme Court decision that was made restricting the rights of women to control their own bodies… today is supposed to be a day of independence, but if you’re saddled with an unwanted child, you are not independent,” she said.

“We definitely think that the government can codify Roe vs. Wade and make it permanently on the books so that this would never be a struggle again… we want to make a splash today because we need more people to take to the streets to announce their frustration and [also] ask where this is going to go. Who are they going to come after next?”

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Party on the Parkway

While some in attendance had made plans for various events weeks in advance, others stumbled into the festivities, like the Stringer family from Allentown. After a morning at the Franklin Institute’s Harry Potter exhibit, they were pleasantly surprised to find the party on the Parkway in full swing.

A smiling family, two parents and their two sons, sit on a bench in the shade.
The Stringer family of Allentown enjoy the shade after visiting the Franklin Institute. (Sam Searles/WHYY)

“It’s a lot,” said young Caleb Stringer. “We went to a Juneteenth thing that was just like this! We also marched, me and mom.”

“We like being out among our people,” his mother, Ebony, added.

While the family wasn’t sure if they were staying for the fireworks, Micah Stringer is definitely in it for the food.

“I want to play some games right now and have some cake,” he said.

His dad, Anthony Stringer, said that they’ve never experienced a July Fourth in Philadelphia and that they might make a return appearance in the near future.

Three family members, two parents and their daughter, stand smiling in the midst of the festivities on the Parkway.
The Saunders family from St. Paul, Minnesota, listen to Jason Derulo’s soundcheck on the Parkway. (Sam Searles/WHYY)

The fireworks on the parkway will begin around 9:45 pm after the 7pm Wawa Welcome America concert headlined by Jason Derulo, Tori Kelly, and Ava Max. The entrance to the concert and fireworks is at Logan Square.

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