I’ve seen a lot of parades, starting with the first one I can remember, the Thanksgiving Parade in New York, with the huge balloons. I was 8 years old, and it sticks with me to this day.
On Thursday, Philadelphia turned its back on the world — which often has turned its back on us — and gave its children something to remember, celebrating one of the happiest days in its 335-year history with the largest parade in its history, honoring the greatest Eagles team in history.
It was historic. That’s why schools, municipal offices, and many businesses shut down, to let the people get down with it.
The Super Bowl LII Championship Parade was an exclamation mark for a civic transition — moving Philadelphia’s celebratory center from City Hall 1.7 miles northwest to the Art Museum.
A precursor to this was when Eakins Oval was used for Pope Francis’ 2015 visit. There was criticism of too-heavy security making it impossible for some pilgrims to get within 10 blocks of the Pope.
What mattered were the magical visuals that went worldwide, showing Philadelphia glistening in the brilliant light.
The Art Museum was recruited as the backdrop for the NFL Draft.
Officially, the city says it selected the Art Museum and Parkway as home base for this parade because of “capacity,” meaning more people can fit there than inside a stadium. City spokesman Mike Dunn also said the city remembered the mess after the 2008 World Series parade when fans leaving Citizens Bank Park overwhelmed SEPTA’s ability to carry them away.
But it is more than just logistics. It’s largely aesthetics.
The beautiful TV shots of the gorgeous Parkway and the world-famous “Rocky steps” in the apron of the Greek Classical Art Museum are “a way to attract tourists in the future,” says David Fiorenza, who teaches urban economics at Villanova University.
What the city is doing, visually, is putting the Art Museum in the nation’s retina, nudging aside the iconic Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. We own the history, the thinking must go, now we want to own pop culture. That’s why the Parkway is used for concerts.
Yes, the Parkway has greater capacity, but that’s kind of lame because once you are more than a block back, the sight lines suck, and you are watching on a Jumbotron.
One other quibble, brought to me by Jay Gagliardi of West Chester, who asked why the parking lots around the stadium were closed.
The Eagles “have no problem with people from the suburbs buying tickets, paying for parking on game days, and buying merchandise and concessions,” but slammed the door on surburbanites on this day, he said.
“This is a security issue” decided by the police commissioner, not the Eagles, said Dunn.
The security claim rings hollow. The lots should have been open.
In Center City, fans staked out spots along the Parkway late Wednesday night, and I was awakened at 6:30 a.m. Thursday by fans blowing air horns on South Broad, followed by “E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!”
The parade brought others to mind, and this city has many: The year starts with the Mummers Parade, a shade of what it once was. The Thanksgiving Day parade is still a big deal, the Independence Day parade less so, and then there are the various ethnic celebrations —St. Patrick’s, Steuben, Puerto Rican Day, Columbus Day, Pulaski Day, Gay Pride, plus smaller ones.
I can imagine the memories that Thursday’s historic parade generated for every 8-year-old and every former 8-year-old.