Lionel Richie, Fantasia, Justice Alito in Philly for Sunoco Welcome America! Festival 2006

PHILADELPHIA, April 21 /PRNewswire/ — There is no better place in the nation to celebrate Independence Day and revel in America’s precious freedoms than Philadelphia. The 14th annual Sunoco Welcome America! Festival will take place from June 27th to July 4th, producing the biggest, most exciting birthday party in the nation.

As the premier destination city for the Independence Day celebration, Philadelphia is a focus of the nation’s attention. Dubbed “America’s Next Great City” by National Geographic magazine, this year’s festival will certainly prove that claim. The Sunoco Welcome America! Festival and the city’s world-class patriotic and historic tourism venues, will offer eight days of family-oriented entertainment, highlighting the best in American music, food and fun. From gospel to pop, the city is alive with concerts, street festivals, history lessons, and July 4th perennials — patriotic parades and spectacular fireworks.

Stars of the Festival

This year the Sunoco Welcome America! Festival has a new executive director, Clifton Davis — celebrated actor, singer and event producer.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to build on the great work that has made Sunoco Welcome America! one of the world’s biggest outdoor festivals, attracting nearly a million people,” Davis said. “Being in Philadelphia on July Fourth is like being in New York on New Year’s Eve. After 14 years, Sunoco Welcome America! and the City of Philadelphia are poised to add even more flavor, more fun and more entertainment in 2006.”

The highlight of the weeklong summer event is the July 4th Sunoco Sweet Sounds of Liberty Concert and Fireworks, featuring R&B powerhouse Lionel Richie, a five time Grammy award winner (All Night Long, Truly, Hello, Endless Love). Ritchie is a former member of the classic R & B group, The Commodores (“Easy like Sunday Morning”) and has sold nearly 100 million albums. He will be joined in concert by Fantasia Barrino (winner of the 2004 American Idol competition) and the Philly POPS.

Honoring the sacrifices made to win and preserve our freedom takes on special significance with so many Americans fighting overseas. On Independence Day 2006, the Sons of the Revolution preside over the nation’s commemorative ceremony-Let Freedom Ring-recognizing those who protect our freedom.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. who will be in Philadelphia to partake in the city’s historic celebrations said, “I am looking forward to being in Philadelphia, our nation’s birthplace, this July 4th and speaking at the Let Freedom Ring celebration as bells are rung across the nation at 2:00 pm.”

An inspirational concert on July 2nd spotlights the legendary Shirley Caesar and contemporary gospel chanteuse Dottie Peoples. Caesar holds numerous Grammy and is known as the First Lady of Gospel.

On July 3rd, Latin music lovers will be dancing in the streets to the rhythms of Puerto Rico and Brazil starring salsa institution El Gran Combo and Brazilian percussionist Xande Cruz.

This year, two new events are being added to the festival roster. A fun-filled Day at the Fair brings an old fashioned carnival to the city; A Taste of Philadelphia is an eclectic and diverse culinary adventure.

July Fourth Favorites

Bringing back old favorites, revelers will be again be treated to the sounds of cool jazz at Arts on the Avenue; stirring renditions from Opera on the Square; Philadelphia’s own Peter Nero and the Philly POPS; and Kid’s Day. The Southwest Airlines July 4th Parade will be a crowd pleaser again this year with nearly 100 participating groups and featuring members of the world famous Cirque du Soleil. The festival includes three nights of fireworks.

“The Sunoco Welcome America! Festival has been an important part of Philadelphia’s Fourth of July celebrations for many years,” said Mayor John F. Street. “Under the new leadership of Clifton Davis, I am confident this year’s festival will attract a multitude of people, offer world class entertainment and boost our City’s and region’s economy while celebrating the freedoms and liberties that make our nation great.”

Sunoco Inc. has been title sponsor of this freedom festival for the past 12 years.

“As a Philadelphia based company and a long time supporter of the Philadelphia community, Sunoco is again proud to be title sponsor of the city’s acclaimed Sunoco Welcome America! festivities,” said Jack Drosdick, Chairman and CEO of Sunoco, Inc. “We are excited about seeing Philadelphia at its best during the nation’s premier Independence Day event.”

Tour Historic Philadelphia

Philadelphia is home to one-of-a-kind American experiences; you can spend an evening with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, or hear a reading of the entire Declaration of Independence. Independence National Park is the setting for Philadelphia’s historic summer attractions, all in the shadow of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. For the Fourth of July holiday season, there will be no other city in the country where you can find history around every corner.

For the holiday weekend, the popular Philly Overnight Hotel Package will return on June 23rd just in time for summer fun. Available through September 4th at dozens of hotels throughout the region, the package includes two-night accommodations, free hotel parking and a gift upon check-in. The package is available any night of the week and will be bookable at gophila.com beginning in mid-April.

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