Hoping to avoid a repeat of Pope Francis’ visit last year, when many residents abandoned the city, Mayor Jim Kenney urged locals to stick around and be a host during this summer's Democratic National Convention.
“I was down in South Philly today… a lady said, ‘I’m leaving town when this convention comes,” Kenney recounted at a press conference at the Top of the Toast restaurant. “I told her you have to stay. By the time I left her she was convinced she was staying.”
“We don’t want people to go to the Jersey Shore, we don’t want people to go to the mountains, this is ... going to be history in the making,” he said.
Kenney said, he hopes residents will help “stay home, show off, meet and greet, be a host and ambassador for our city, and enjoy what’s going on,” as well as helping to sell the city.
“It’s really, really important that people stay home, show off Philadelphia, be friendly to the delegates … engage them, go up to them and really sell Philadelphia,” Kenney said. “We need Philadelphia residents and people who work downtown to sell Philadelphia for us, to help us sell the city.”
Kenney urged people to keep patronizing local restaurants while the DNC is in town July 25-29.
When Pope Francis visited in September 2015 for the World Meeting of Families, many locals deserted the streets of Philadelphia. The most urgent question for many was how to make a buck, either by renting out their homes on Airbnb or by scalping the limited free tickets to see Pope Francis speak.
After the event ended, business owners who invested in staying open complained of light business from the nearly 1 million pilgrims who flocked to Philadelphia.
In contrast, the Democratic National Convention (DNC) is expected to attract about 50,000 – “less than go to an Eagles game on Sunday,” as Kenney put it.
But nonetheless DNC organizers will start up a publicity campaign titled “You Don’t Want to Miss This” in coming weeks with public service announcements urging locals to stay in Philadelphia.
Among the events that locals can enjoy are PoliticalFest, a seven-day series of educational and entertaining events during the convention that are open to the public.
DNC organizers also announced Wednesday that there will be a massive gathering of local food trucks before the convention, and what may be the biggest Center City Sips happy hour ever on July 27.
“It’s not just about the DNC as much as it’s about the city’s future going forward. This event … will help propel Philadelphia further into the international city that it is,” Kenney said. “It really would be a shame for you and your children to miss this history.”