PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — "Today is a busy day, and I would have it no other way," says "Benjamin Franklin," standing in front of the old State House, which we now know as Independence Hall. "I've got a lot of places to be, a lot of people to see."
It's Fourth of July, a national holiday that was born right here in Philadelphia.
Another Ben, an 11-year-old from North Texas, is in Philadelphia with his family for the holiday. He said he loves that the pages in his history book are coming alive.
"I just think it’s really fascinating," he said, "because this year I just learned about U.S. history, and knowing all this, and being here to appreciate it — I just think it’s really cool."
His dad Michael said there's no better time to visit.
"Great appreciation for our country," he said. "That’s why we’re here today. We wanted to be able to get here and get tickets to Independence Hall and, kind of, a life event for the kids."
A busy birthday
The day's festivities kicked off at 9 a.m. at the Independence Visitor Center, where Franklin and other historical re-enactors hosted America's Birthday Party. There was a five-tier cake, created by Termini Bros. bakery, and 2,500 cupcakes arranged in the shape of the American Flag.
Betsy Ross was on hand to lead visitors in singing "Happy Birthday" to America and to cut the cake before the cupcakes were given away at 1 p.m.
At the Celebration of Freedom Ceremony in front of Independence Hall, which is known for the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence, former Philadelphia Eagle Connor Barwin received the Magis Award for his work with his Make the World Better Foundation. Board member and former teammate Jason Kelce was by his side, but he did not give a speech.
The Independence Day parade started rolling red, white and blue at 11 a.m. at 5th and Chestnut streets.
Then the Party on the Parkway started at noon, with much to eat and drink, as well as beer gardens, lasting until about 7 p.m., when the Concert on the Parkway begins.
And the day ends with fireworks lighting up the night sky.
Welcome to America
Across the Delaware River, the Battleship New Jersey played host to a naturalization ceremony for 40 prospective American citizens. It was one of several Fourth of July naturalization ceremonies held in the Philadelphia area.
It's a unique way to start celebrating the Fourth of July.
Under the blazing sun and the intimidating guns of the battleship, the soon-be-citizens, from 23 countries, waited patiently with family and friends on the calm waters of the river for one specific question.
"Are you ready to become citizens of the United States of America?" said a representative of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
All 40 raised their right hands together and repeated the Oath of Allegiance to officially become Americans.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy were there to welcome the men and women. Murphy gave a keynote speech, which he concluded by quoting from the Declaration of Independence.
"I'm proud to welcome you to stand at my side as citizens of the United States, as does everyone here," Murphy said. "And to you I pledge that we will continue do all we can to ensure that the promise of this great nation remains open and unfolded before you so that you may make the most of it."
The day's ceremony marked the end of a long journey for some, such as Sheyla Herhey, originally from Brazil.
"I'm very pleased, very happy to be an American citizen," said Sheyla Herhey, originally from Brazil. "I've been trying to be an American citizen for a long time. It's an accomplishment."
The path was a little easier for some, including Navjot Kashyap of India, whose wife is American.
"It's a very big day to be an American citizen right now," Kashyap said. "So like, you know, everybody dreams for it. I made it, so I got it."
Herhey said she already has big plans: "I have a non-profit organization based in Camden that I help with the homeless people in the street. And of course I want to run. I want to run. I want to become a senator some day."
As they say, go big or go home. And these new citizens are now home.
In total, nearly 7,500 new citizens were sworn in around the country this week alone.
Philly's annual Fourth of July parade
Many lined the streets for Philadelphia's annual Fourth of July parade, including Joe, who is from Boston.
"Everybody's here to have a good time and we're all here for the same reason, you know, because it's July Fourth," he said.
Maximus Klevence of Philadelphia said there's no party like America's birthday party.
"I love how there's so much pride, like no one's afraid to say like, 'yeah! It's Fourth of July!' Like everyone's like, 'Oh yeah, Americanism! Woo yeah we're all American, yeah,'" Klevence said.
Lunda Curuso of Washington Township, New Jersey said the parade put her in a great mood.
"It brings everybody together. You're not thinking about all the things that are going on in the country right now with politics and everything. It just brings everybody together to be thankful for what you have," she said.
KYW Newsradio's Tim Jimenez, Dan Wing and Hadas Kuznits contributed to this report.
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