July 4 weekend parade, fireworks, 50 free events announced

The city's 25th Wawa Welcome America festival will include 50 free events and four fireworks shows over six days, organizers announced Tuesday.

The festival includes a free concert headlined by Mary J. Blige, block parties, art exhibitions, movie screenings, and free entry to 10 museums.

New this year are a 21-and-over event at SugarHouse Casino, a pop-up beer garden outside City Hall, and a Kimmel Center tribute to musical theater.

Boyz II Men will be honored at the July Fourth concert on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

And, yes, the six-ton hoagie will return.

Last year, rain forced the cancellation of a scheduled Philly Pops performance; a recording accompanied the fireworks instead. The Pops are to be back this year, joined by Mandy Gonzalez from Hamilton and jazz pianist Tony DeSare.

The fireworks, which some observers criticized last year for lack of visibility given the weather, will return on three nights.

There will be two 9:30 p.m. fireworks shows on the Delaware River: Friday, June 30, and Saturday, July 1.

Two simultaneous shows will go off at 9:30 July 4 over the Parkway and the Delaware River waterfront.

Mayor Kenney will present the Magis Award, honoring local heroes, to Ralph Galati, a veteran who was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart.

A full lineup of events will be posted at WelcomeAmerica.com.

Five highlights from the weekend include:

Thursday, June 29, at noon:

Free Wawa hoagie giveaway, six-ton hoagie display and a hoagie-building competition between police and firefighters. The National Constitution Center is also free from noon to 2 p.m.

Saturday, July 1, from 5 to 9 p.m.:

SugarHouse Casino’s Red, White & Brew will feature an evening of food, drinks, and entertainment by Mo Lowda and the Humble along the Delaware River waterfront.

Monday, July 3, time to be announced:

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts presents a concert tribute to musical theater offering a sneak peek at the 2017-18 Broadway Philadelphia season.

Tuesday, July 4:

The Independence Day Parade kicks off at 11 a.m. with 4,000 marchers. Events to follow at Independence Hall, the Visitor Center, and the Liberty Bell Center.

The Wawa Welcome America July Fourth concert starts at 7 p.m. with Blige, Boyz II Men, and the Philly Pops Big Band.

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