A perfect day for a party on the Parkway

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Steve Aoki sprays champagne on the crowd while performing on the Liberty Stage during the Budweiser Made in America Festival, on the Ben Franklin Parkway, in Philadelphia on August 30, 2014. ( ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer )

Under near-perfect skies, tens of thousands of music-lovers flocked to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Saturday for the first of two days of concerts at the Budweiser Made in America festival.

The third annual outdoor extravaganza, the creation of rap impresario Shawn Carter - better known as Jay Z - was staged for the first time this year simultaneously with an event in Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles.

The MIA events were billed as a U.S. bicoastal urban megafestival. Kanye West, the headliner Saturday night in Philadelphia, was scheduled to fly overnight to the West Coast to appear Sunday in Los Angeles.

"Kanye - that's why we're here," said Melissa Wolfe, 22, a three-time MIA veteran who stood in the front of the main stage with her cousin, Kevin Donatelli, from Washington.

Police were present, but not obtrusive. They reported two arrests for minor incidents - public urination and fence-jumping. Several minors were detained for drinking.

Workers had labored for several days to arrange four stages around the Parkway and Eakins Oval into a carnival setting. Nearly 50 acts were scheduled, from noon to midnight, over two days.

Streams of concertgoers converged Saturday at 30th Street Station, arriving by Amtrak, Regional Rail, and NJ Transit, as well as by bus and by subway. Students walked from University City.

All headed toward the music, which became distinct just a few blocks away.

Three students from Villanova University arrived ready to party. Justin Ortiz, 23, had an American flag draped around his shoulders; Myriah DiPetrillo and Serena Loewenstein, both 20, wore flag clothing. Loewenstein was the veteran, having attended both previous MIA concerts.

"It is a fun weekend," she said from behind a pair of shades with stars and bars in the lenses. "Hang out with our friends."

Saturday's event started off with a dream-pop band from Los Angeles called Young & Sick. Headliners included Mayer Hawthorne, J. Cole, and the National.

On Sunday, the attractions include Spoon, Pharrell Williams, Grimes, and Kings of Leon.

Spectators were drawn to hear acts that spanned a wide spectrum of musical genres.

"We've been wanting to do this for awhile," said Alisa Lawrence, 42, who traveled from Brooklyn with her sister and cousin. "They have the best eclectic mix of music."

Performances in Philadelphia and Los Angeles were available for fans to see via live-streaming. Live Nation produced both events.

Though the ticket price was accessible - $89.50 for a one-day general admission pass - the promoters were not as charitable on food and beverage prices. A 16-ounce can of Budweiser sold for $9. Larger cans fetched $11.

Police said 44,000 people were in attendance.

"We're waiting for the good acts to come on," said Katie Swanson, 16, of Lansdale, one of about 40 students from the North Penn High School who arrived by train and took pictures of one another as DJ Cassidy, wearing a white straw hat, supplied the mix.

Last year's Made in America event drew about 60,000 each day to the Parkway. The organizers said the 2012 festival had generated at least $10 million in economic impact.

The proceeds will benefit United Way organizations in the Philadelphia area, South Jersey, and Lancaster County. In Los Angeles, the regional United Way will benefit.

The audience spanned the spectrum. Cornelia Christian and friend Erica White, who won tickets from a radio station, sat in lawn chairs at a prime spot in front of the main stage to see a series of unfamiliar performers.

"I don't know who these people are," said Christian, 57, of Philadelphia.

Both women said they'd heard of Kanye West, but White said she'd rather see some old-school R&B, like the Isley Brothers.

But Christian and White were prepared to sit in their spot until the very end, though the concession-stand prices were irksome.

"I know one thing," White said, "I'm not too particular about these $5 pretzels and $5 hot dogs they're selling."

As the evening progressed, thousands of concertgoers crammed into the prime stage-front spots for the big attractions, at times falling into one another.

Red-and-blue beer cans crackled underfoot, trampled flat by the masses and piled several deep along curbs. And tired, drunk music lovers rested on the grass - not always face-up.

Not everyone came for the music.

A group of Chicago visitors who had come to see the Rocky statue near the Art Museum were disappointed to learn it was off-limits.

But the concert lineup caught their interest. For a moment.

"Kanye West?" repeated Bruce Garcia, 37, of Elgin, Ill. "How much is it?"

The reaction was swift to the $89.50 price.

"Too much," said Alfredo Garcia, 60, also of Elgin.

Saturday's weather was relatively mild, but concertgoers cooled off under sprinklers nonetheless.

Tiffany Upton, 23, who traveled from Long Island with about 20 friends, took a twirl under the sprinkler and swung her red-white-and-blue - and purple - hair.

"It's hot," Upton said, adding that her patriotic hair color was just a coincidence and not dyed especially for Made in America.

Sunday's forecast called for a chance of showers and thunderstorms, with a high near 89.

Some residents in the Art Museum area were unhappy with the intrusion of tens of thousands of visitors to their neighborhood.

Mia Argentieri, 68, who has an apartment in the Philadelphian with a balcony overlooking the Parkway, said she had to wear earplugs last week to block out construction noises as the city readied the festival venue.

"This is a lovely event for some people," Argentieri, a retired business owner, said. "But it's not a lovely event for those of us who live in the neighborhood."

Some of her neighbors leave the area now on Labor Day weekend so they don't have to deal with the street closures, parking restrictions, and noise. Some who stay behind can't leave home lest they sacrifice a good parking space.

"We're stuck," she said. "You either leave before it starts and come back on Monday when it's over, or you're here until it's over."

 



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