The Billies

Billy Penn Awards: Brought to you by cheesesteaks, hoagies, innovators and makers

The Billies are a festive fundraiser for local news.

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Skyline photo: Mark Henninger
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On June 26, we’re inviting Philadelphia to join us at World Cafe Live for a night of fun and festivity. The Billies is a celebration of the impressive people and projects working to better the city and region — and it’s also a fundraiser for our newsroom.

Simply put, if you buy a ticket to the party, you’re supporting local journalism.

Our event’s generous sponsors were inspired by this opportunity to give local news a boost, and they also align with our values. Which values? For one, the recognition that Philadelphia is a superior sandwich city.

We’re thrilled to announce that the inaugural Billy Penn Awards Gala is being presented by Pat’s King of Steaks and its charitable arm, the Spread the Whiz Foundation.

“We love Philly, and so does Billy Penn, so we see this as a perfect match,” said third-gen owner Frank Olivieri, whose great-uncle is credited with coming up with the genius idea of stuffing frizzled beef into a long roll. (Fun fact: Olivieri graduated from culinary school and is actually an accomplished chef, which was the driving force behind setting up his healthy-eating foundation.)

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But wait, there’s more: Along with cheesesteaks, real Philadelphians know hoagies deserve a place of honor in the city’s sandwich canon — and we tapped one of the premier local providers.

Deli meat powerhouse Dietz & Watson will present the evening’s Never Delete Your Account Award. The tongue-in-cheek category is even more appropriate if you’ve noticed how the company has been leaning into irreverent marketing of late (see: Dietz Nuts, hotdog bathing suits, Gritty sauce, etc.).

“Dietz & Watson is proud to call Philly home for the past 80 years and we love to support other local businesses in our hometown, which is why we’re thrilled to be part of the first annual Billy Penn Awards,” said VP Lauren Eni, who’s part of the fourth generation running the company founded by Gottlieb Dietz in 1939.

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Innovators, makers and tourism

Philadelphia is about much more than great food, and the rest of our inaugural sponsor lineup for the Billies reflects many of these other strengths.

Long known as a “city of firsts” — first hospital, first library, first public school, first bank, first botanical gardens, the list goes on — Philly is now reclaiming its reputation as a center of innovation. That’s what we’ll highlight with the 1682 Award, which is being presented by CIC Philadelphia.

Founded near Boston as the Cambridge Innovation Center, the company specializes in coworking and office spaces for innovators. It recently set up shop at 3675 Market St. at the University City Science Center.

“Over the past year, we’ve seen how innovators in Philadelphia are working to solve some of the world’s toughest problems,” said site director Sally Guzik. “The STEM community here is showing the world what Philadelphia has to offer in terms of collaborative, forefront technologies, and solutions.”

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On the front lines of spreading the good word about this city is Philadelphia International Airport.

Over the past half-decade, the airport and its concession provider MarketPlace PHL have doubled down on bringing local flavor to the sprawling terminals, which see some 32 million passengers each year.

With that many people, hospitality is key, which is why it’s fitting that PHL and MarketPlace will present the Billies Social Hour.

From 6:30 p.m. through the show kickoff, a live band will welcome guests with a medley of Philly-related tunes. The World Cafe Live bar will selling themed drinks and PHL will be giving out free popcorn snacks, just like they do at the airport.

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When we start the show at 7:30 p.m., folks who are honored on stage will receive a special memento.

Everyone recognizes the statuettes from the Oscars. What’s does a “Billy” look like? To answer that question, we turned to the talented fabricators at FK Productions.

We definitely didn’t want the keepsakes to be run-of-the-mill, but we also didn’t have much of a budget (this is the event’s first year, after all). So the Kensington-based firm, which carries a tagline of “applied imagination,” graciously stepped up to make them as a sponsor. Stay tuned for a reveal — the design they came up with is really cool — along with a showcase of more of FKP’s work.

Buy a ticket — or donate online

Ready to be part of it all? Tickets for the Billy Penn Awards Gala presented by Pat’s Steaks on Wednesday, June 26, at World Cafe Live are currently on sale for $22 each, plus $7 in fees.

If they don’t sell out, they’ll also be available at the door, but we recommend snagging your spot in advance. Remember, each seat you pick up = a boost for local news.

If you want to support the cause and can’t make it that night, you can make a donation to Billy Penn online right here. Our newsroom is powered by reader support. If your annual contribution totals $35 or more — that’s just $3/month — you’ll be counted as a member, and unlock other perks, too.

But really, you should also come out to the party. It’s gonna be awesome. See you there.

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