Fireworks explode in the background behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art griffins

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Philadelphia was rocking on Independence Day as the city where it all started celebrated with some of the first major events since the pandemic shut things down.

Instead of the usual “Party on the Parkway,” the traditional Wawa Welcome America concert took place at the Mann Center, where hundreds of guests who’d scored free tickets gathered under the venue rafters and on the Fairmount Park lawn to see the show.

“I knew the pandemic would be over when Flo Rida took the stage,” a man who identified himself as John from Bridesburg told the NBC10 broadcast.

He hopped up and down and shouted with joy, hyping up his fellow concert-goers. “I’m ready, are you guys ready!” he screamed.

The energy was infectious, and the crowd was ready.

At the Mann, “The Voice” winner and North Philly native Cam Anthony kicked off the night by performing with the Philly POPS. Singer-songwriter Flo Rida (who is indeed from Florida) showered audience members with champagne and brought people on stage to dance. He was followed by pop-country crossover star Bebe Rexha, who is known for promoting body positivity.

To take it all in, friends gathered early during a breezy, mid-70s, sunshine-filled day that was disturbed only by a very brief rainstorm in the late afternoon.

A man drives a American flag- themed car through Center City Credit: Mikey Reeves / Billy Penn

People broke out their best patriotic gear as families that hadn’t seen each other in over a year reunited.

Tourists mingled with locals as they strolled through the city, checking out the Historic District, on their way to the concert, or scoring a prime spot for the fireworks at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Thousands gathered at Eakins Oval and along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to watch the scheduled 9:30 p.m. fireworks display Credit: Jonathan Wilson / WHYY

The streets might have been busier than they’ve been in 16 months.

As of last week, nearly 60% of Philadelphia residents were fully vaccinated, and more than 72% had received at least one dose of COVID vaccine, according to city data, a rate that’s been advancing faster than other cities.

A crush of a crowd filled Independence Mall on July 4 morning, as First Lady Jill Biden spoke during Philly’s Celebration of Freedom ceremony.

First Lady Jill Biden and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney Credit: Michael Reeves / Billy Penn

Following Biden, Mayor Jim Kenney presented an award to Ala Stanford of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, recognizing the important work the group did to help ensure all communities had access to testing and then the vaccine.

Stanford used the occasion to press more people to get the shot.

“For all the folks out there who are still on the fence,” Stanford said, “we can have this gathering because 70% of us in the region got vaccinated.”

Scroll down for more pics from the celebration of the 245th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in the city where it happened..

Fireworks cascade behind the central portico of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Credit: Jonathan Wilson / WHYY
Fireworks erupt over the Philadelphia Museum of Art Credit: Jonathan Wilson / WHYY
On Eakins Oval Donald Dennison uses his phone records the July 4 fireworks display Credit: Jonathan Wilson / WHYY
The Fourth of July fireworks display reaches its finale at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Credit: Jonathan Wilson / WHYY
Fireworks explode over the Philadelphia Museum of Art Credit: Jonathan Wilson / WHYY
Beneath the statue of George Washington on Eakins Oval, a couple watches the fireworks display Credit: Jonathan Wilson / WHYY
A family wearing ‘Not made in China’ tees poses at the start of the Mann Center concert Credit: Mikey Reeves / Billy Penn
Wawa was giving out patriotic hats to the Mann Center crowd Credit: Mikey Reeves / Billy Penn
Celebrating Fourth of July in motocycle-sidecar style Credit: Mikey Reeves / Billy Penn
A couple who traveled from Houston to celebrate the Fourth in Philly waits outside the Mann Credit: Mikey Reeves / Billy Penn
Kids could pick up patriotic balloon animals as they waited for the music to start at the Mann Credit: Mikey Reeves / Billy Penn
Friends pose outside the Mann Center before the concert Credit: Mikey Reeves / Billy Penn
A family waits to enter the Mann Center Credit: Mikey Reeves / Billy Penn
Credit: Mikey Reeves / Billy Penn
Credit: Michael Reeves / Billy Penn
A family on the Mann Center lawn before the concert Credit: Mikey Reeves / Billy Penn
A little girl shows off her American flag colors Credit: Mikey Reeves / Billy Penn