The Wawa Welcome America celebration is finally here to celebrate the country’s 242nd birthday, in the place where it all began — Philadelphia.
From June 28 through July 4, there will be free events all over the city that include everything from concerts to museums to movie screenings.
“We do that because Philadelphia is not one-size-fits-all and neither should our Independence Day celebration,” says Jeff Guaracino, President and CEO of Wawa Welcome America. “Not everyone is interested in big concerts on the Parkway but love history, so that’s why they like Independence Mall and the history that’s there. We want everyone in Philadelphia as well as visitors to see something that they love in this schedule.”
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Produced on behalf of the city, Wawa has been the title sponsor since 2010. Since Guaracino came onboard as President and CEO in 2016, new business partnerships with Comcast/NBCUniversal and Live Nation were developed to make Wawa Welcome America bigger and better.
“Under Mayor Kenney, who is my board chair, we really wanted to do a July 4 festival as a festival with a positive message. We didn’t want to be just any concert or any festival but the nation’s premiere festival for Independence Day,” Guaracino says.
In keeping with the focus on the festival’s positive message, Pitbull seemed like a great candidate to headline the free concert on the Parkway.
“When we were looking at potential talent for July 4, we were looking for artists who have a positive message to share with the world,” Guaracino says. “When you look at Pitbull, he’s the son of immigrants, and we’re a city that welcomes everyone here with love. He supports education and we support education and the city is investing in education. He’s also a clean water advocate and supports hard work. His messages are our messages. He was a good fit.”
Planning for the annual celebration is a year-long process.
“The reason why is fundraising,” Guaracino says. “Our sponsors make everything free and this year, we have close to 80.”
Organizing all of those fireworks displays also requires advance planning.
“If you want fireworks by July 4, you need to order them in December,” Guaracino says. “It’s thousands and thousands of firework shells in various sizes. This year we debut new fireworks effects and new fireworks shells — some of which haven’t been seen before in the country.”
So what’s Guaracino most excited about for this year’s Wawa Welcome America?
“I’m very excited about the 18 museums that are open for free or pay what you wish,” he says.
“We have world-renowned collections of art and museums. People come here to see the Barnes Foundation, The Art Museum, The National Constitution Center. Only at Wawa Welcome America you’ll be able to go to multiple free museums every day. Last year 50,000 people went to one of our free museums.”
The free outdoor concerts are a big highlight as well.
“I also think it’s cool that we have three nights of concerts at Independence Hall and this year, we debut a gospel concert, a Broadway concert and then a full-on Philly Pops concert starring Heather Headley on July 3,” he says. “You don’t need a ticket — you just come and show up with a picnic basket and a chair.”
For Guaracino, there’s no better place to be than Philadelphia on July 4.
“What distinguishes us is that it all happened here,” he says. “We call them our founding fathers but it was Philadelphians in 1776 who did all this — who decided they wanted to make the world a better place.”
For more information on Wawa Welcome America 2018, visit: welcomeamerica.com.