PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Thousands usually flock to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the Wawa Welcome America festival over the summer, but that won’t be happening this year. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced Tuesday the festival will be held virtually this year due to the pandemic.

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“We are continuously looking for opportunities to reimagine our programming in ways that will entertain and bring our community together, while keeping health and safety at the top of our minds,” Kenney said.

It will be the first time in 28 years the festival won’t be held in-person.

“Our team remains committed, now more than ever, to creating an experience that gives our City something to celebrate,” said Welcome America CEO Michael DelBene in a statement. “It is a challenging time, and while we may not be able to gather in our City’s great public spaces this year, we are eager to celebrate in a new way through interactive, virtual experiences. We are grateful to the City and to our incredible sponsors and partners for their support, which will allow us to continue this storied tradition in a new, exciting way.”

The July 4th concert will still take place. City officials say there will be one live performance that will take place at an undisclosed location in Philadelphia that will be streamed virtually.

Kenney believes holding the festival virtually will be a morale booster for Philadelphia.

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“There’s nothing worse than taking 200,000 people in July, in the middle of the pandemic, and putting them together on the parkway so they can breathe on each other. We don’t want to just cancel it altogether, but we want to have some ability for people to be energized to stay inside to watch proceedings and it will keep people safer and keep them indoors,” Kenney said.


The virtual festival will last from June 28-July 4 and include arts, culture, entertainment, history, and education.

While the city can look forward to the new virtual festival, state officials are still looking at rising COVID-19 case counts.

Gov. Tom Wolf is standing firm in his measured approach to reopening Philadelphia and the southeastern part of the commonwealth.

“We are reopening Pennsylvania in the same measured, cadenced way, sequential way, and all of it is in effort to do the best job we possibly can in fighting this virus,” Wolf said

The governor says he will be announcing more county reopenings very soon.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley reported 224 new cases, bringing the citywide total to 18,537. Another 15 Philadelphians died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 908.

Farley reiterated it’s still too soon for when the city can reopen but for the day when that does happen, residents will still need to wear a mask, keep your distance and wash your hands.

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CBS3’s Natasha Brown contributed to this report.