Philly plans for weeks-long Welcome America festivities fully in person

Gospel singer Treena Ferebee at the announcement of the 2022 Welcome America Festival. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Gospel singer Treena Ferebee at the announcement of the 2022 Welcome America Festival. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

City officials took to the top of the Art Museum steps to formally announce the return to a completely live and in-person Welcome America for 2022.

The all live festivities will run from Juneteenth on June 19 at the African American Museum in Philadelphia to a Fourth of July concert on the Parkway. The culminating concert will feature opener Ava Max with 2020 virtual headliner Jason Derulo coming back to again headline the show, this time in person. Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out for the night of music and fireworks.

“Concerts are back, free museums are back, community events are back,” said Michael DelBene, president and CEO of Welcome America. “The continued expansion of our festival to connect Juneteenth and July 4th through honest, inclusive, and diverse programming is back.”

Michael DelBene, president and CEO of Welcome America, speaks at the announcement of the 2022 Welcome America Festival. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)
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There were limited live events a year ago after a completely virtual 2020 Welcome America. This year, DelBene said at least 30 museums would open their doors for the free museum series, and there will be performances at a special festival honoring Latin music and dance.

Pianist Emiliano Messiez calls New York home, but his work locally with the Argentine Tango School in Philadelphia has made him feel honored to be part of what he calls “an important celebration.”

“We’re going to perform tango music,” Messiez said. “Argentine Tango is not represented everywhere, [so] I’m just looking forward for people to be listening to new music.”

Tango dancers perform at the announcement of the 2022 Welcome America Festival. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

The event will kick off with a massive celebration of Juneteenth at the African American Museum in Philadelphia. Nina Ball, director of programming at the museum said this is the second year they have collaborated with Welcome America. The museum will offer activities for children, families, and older and younger adults.

“Juneteenth is something very important to the museum,” Ball said. The Juneteenth event will also feature a U.S. Color Guard re-enactment of when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

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“Some people celebrate, some people commemorate,” Ball explained, “but we want to hold a space for everyone.”

Gospel singer Treena Ferebee at the announcement of the 2022 Welcome America Festival. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

In addition to the concerts and neighborhood festivals, this year’s Welcome America will also feature the Go Forth and Learn event on June 22, where families can enjoy fun activities on the University of Pennsylvania campus.

There will also be the traditional Hoagie Day in Philadelphia. On June 29, Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens said the company will give away the equivalent of 30,000 hoagies in Philadelphia and another 30,000 in the communities they serve to local community heroes.

“There’s no better place than Philadelphia, around the Fourth of July. This city does big events better than any city in the country, maybe in the globe,” Gheysens said.

Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens speaks at the announcement of the 2022 Welcome America Festival. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

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