The July 4 celebrations made a triumphant return on Sunday to the city where America began – to thunderous applause from onlookers released after a year isolated at home by the pandemic.
Philadelphians marked the daytime vacations with barbecue grills across town, their thick smoke mingling with the astringent scent of sunscreen. The kids were playing and laughing, and the adults joined in, reveling in the freedom to be together to celebrate the holidays.
Closer to sunset, many flocked to the Mann Center, where Wawa and the city have teamed up to host the annual Welcome America festival.
Hundreds of families attended the free event, some to watch the performances of performers Flo Rida and Bebe Rexha, others to reserve prime seats for the fireworks display, and all eager to spend time in outside.
Among the crowd were four generations of the Dandridge family, who came from Nicetown to celebrate Independence Day.
“This is the first time we’ve all been really outside, together in a social setting,” said Carl Dandridge as his granddaughter, Maxcene, kept a close watch on his great-granddaughter, Millie.
“We had the rain, but we held on,” he said. “There was no way we were going. “
In the Mann’s stands, there has been a lot of talk about Cam Anthony, the Philadelphia native who recently won NBC’s “The Voice” singing contest.
Johnny Moore of West Philadelphia eagerly awaited Anthony’s performance, beaming with hometown pride.
“I’m happy to see his success, and just happy to be here,” Moore said. “It’s good to be here because a lot of us didn’t make it last year.
As dusk fell and Flo Rida took the stage, the crowd erupted in joy, clapping, singing and dancing with him.
Abby Elliot from South Philly brought her daughter and sister with her to the concert, playing competitive Uno games between concerts.
“This is our first time at Mann, and it was just going out for it,” Elliot said. “We are all looking forward to more crowds, more people, more outdoor activities.”
The pandemic, or rather the relief of a return to normalcy amid skyrocketing vaccination rates, was on the minds of many.
Sophia Thai called the concert, and the promise of a summer beyond filled with time spent with friends, a “breath of fresh air”.
“We finally get out there, finally see people,” said Thai, of Marlton. “This is what we all needed.
Abby Sloan said that was definitely what she needed. She traded Chicago for Bensalem in 2019, eager to learn more about her new home and brush up on her American Revolutionary history in the city where so many key events happened.
Instead, she spent most of the next year inside her apartment. She saw last year’s fireworks from her patio, but her place this year at the Mann, stretched out amid a picnic of cheese and wine overlooking the Philadelphia skyline, was a major improvement.
“I love the CDC and I love [Dr. Anthony] Fauci, ”Sloan said. “It’s like the world is alive again.”
The highlight of the event, for many, was the fireworks display that capped the evening’s festivities, exploding into the night sky above the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in a colorful display of twinkling light.
Hundreds of spectators were joined to view the exhibit by hundreds of other revelers who filled the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from Eakins Oval to Logan Square.
Sarah and Zane Gregory drove into town from Anne Arundel County, Md., Just for this: The town’s spectacle, they said, was on a list of the best fireworks in the world. East Coast.
“There is nothing better than this on a day like this,” said Zane Gregory. “It’s the perfect way to wrap it all up. “