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Third & Fourth of July Third of July - Philadelphia Orchestra Free Public Concert at Penn's Landing, followed by a fireworks and music display Fourth of July - Concert at the Philadelphia Art Museum featuring the Goo Goo Dolls, the Root, followed by fireworks Credit: Michael Chien

For rising College junior Katie Berkowitz, it was July 3rd, not July 4th that inspired her patriotism.

“There was a patriotic feeling, a feeling of camaraderie in the audience,” she said of the free Philadelphia Orchestra concert and fireworks at Penn’s Landing, organized by the city as part of a week-long celebration of America’s birthday.

The Independence Day festivities — branded as Wawa Welcome America! — started on June 25 and included a Chinatown Block Party, all you can eat ice cream, various concerts and multiple nights of fireworks.

Recent College graduate Lauren Gutstein said she liked the orchestra best, especially the way the night’s fireworks coordinated with the orchestra’s music. “There would be a big, dramatic musical movement and the fireworks would mirror it,” she said.

But the grand finale — a 4th of July concert featuring the Goo Goo Dolls and the Roots followed by a fireworks show over the Philadelphia Museum of Art ­­— stood its ground against everything else, according to rising College junior Rachel Dickson, who attended the festivities with a group of friends.

“The best part was probably the concert,” Dickson said.

When the Goo Goo Dolls played one of their popular songs, “all of us were singing together. We we standing up and jumping around,” Dickson added.

According to a spokeswoman from the event’s Executive Director Melanie Johnson’s office, this year’s agenda “built on some of the changes made last year,” including the decision to hold the concert at the Parkway rather than the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The most notable difference this year was Wawa’s sponsoring of the events, whereas the oil company Sunoco had funded it in the past.

Wawa signed on to contribute over $3 million to the cause over three years after Sunoco’s contract expired last year.

Another new addition was the Chinatown block party on July 3rd, which featured food, games and performances, including a martial arts demonstration.

Philadelphia also played up its historical roots at events such as a Historical Story Time for kids and a Liberty Bell taping ceremony by descendents of signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Although the city cannot gauge the official number of people who attended the festivities at this point, “we know we are way over last year,” Johnson’s office said. She couldn’t explain why attendance increased, but cited the popularity of last years events and good promotion as possible reasons.

Having spent her first 4th of July in Philly this year, Gutstein said, “I can say there was a lot more going on than in California where I’m from.”

The week ended with a bang, according to Dickson. “There were really, really huge fireworks, no little, small ones,” she said. “They were one of the top fireworks to see in the nation.”

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