Philly is Primping for #PHLDNC

Constitution Center

Constitution Center

It’s Independence Day weekend in Philadelphia and ohhhh… the sites and sounds. There are spectacular things to do and see… and some things will remain (and be added!) for the DNC Convention the last week in July.

I brought my nieces and my sister-in-law to, of course, the Constitution Center yesterday both to see the newest version of Freedom Rising, and the renovation of the Bronze Room. To me it really is the happiest place on earth. For this weekend, there are displays and demonstrations on the front lawn of Colonial times: a blacksmith and a weaver, just to name two of many.

Remember, the Constitution Center is hosting PoliticalFest, which will run July 22-27. It’s inexpensive and will be a terrific experience. You can get your tickets (good for all six days) at the convention website. If you’re credentialed, PoliticalFest is free.

This is a great place to get a sense of all the historical things you can tour in Philadelphia. Independence Hall. (The original home of the Declaration of Independence, and compilation of the Constitution.) Betsy Ross’ House. (Our first flag!) Effreth’s Alley. (The oldest, continuously occupied street in the United States.)

We then crossed the street to the Independence Visitor Center and at the south end, the Liberty Bell.

In the Visitor Center, we were greeted by two donkeys. There are 57 of them around Philly comprising the Donkeys Around Town program. They are created by local Philly artists to celebrate the states, DC and the territories, all in celebration of the DNC coming to town.

The Vermont Donkey

The Vermont Donkey by Philadelphia artist Sam S. Petner

The Rhode Island Donkey

The Rhode Island Donkey by Philadelphia artist Kathryn Pannepacker

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Rocky Statue formerly located in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Rocky Statue formerly located in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Stilt people at visitor center

Stilt people at visitor center

We then crossed the street to the Independence Visitor Center.

There’s more to see in the Visitor Center, including a Rocky statue and stilt people. Normally, I take visitors out on the second floor veranda of the Constitution Center, point past the Visitor Center, down the grassy mall to Independence Hall and remind them that the Founding Fathers and their families were guilty of treason against the crown, and risked life, limb and everything they held dear to fight so that we could breathe free today. This year, as I looked out at the crowds and the displays all I could wonder was about the juxtaposition of the coming Convention. Would this be Chicago ’68 redux? Would the arrests of the 2000 GOP convention be repeated, with so many people arrested that they were housed in the Armory at NAVSUP? What will happen on the streets and in the hall?

Philadelphia's Chinatown

Philadelphia’s Chinatown

No time to dwell, however, because there was more to see. If you’re coming to Philadelphia for the Convention, and you decide to come down to the Historic Area, you can walk out the north end of the Convention Center, turn east, and you’ll be in Chinatown. Philadelphia’s Chinatown is the third largest in the US, only San Francisco and New York’s are bigger. Our Chinatown is on a path of extension, both up and out towards the north. There’s great food, interesting shops, and I need to spare a word about the bakeries. As someone who is about 99% sweet tooth, I always scope the bakeries, and embrace the differences between, say, the macarons at good French bakeries, the cakes at Austrian bakeries, cannoli at Italian bakeries, and oh I could go on. The Chinatown bakeries should be Chinese, but for some reason, they all seem to carry Philly soft pretzels. Along with cheesesteaks, Philly soft pretzels are considered a delicacy when made right, but, well, not Chinese and I’m a purist.

Jess hugs her favorite delegate: James Madison.

Jess hugs her favorite delegate: James Madison.

Get excited! Come to Philly. The Convention will be a unique undertaking. I close this a picture of myself hugging my favourite delegate of all time at any gathering… James Madison. (And yes, you too can hug your pick fave in the Bronze Hall at the Constitution Center.) I think a lot about his Federalist Paper #10, on factionalism, and wonder what he would think about the upcoming floor fight over the Platform. What all the Founding Fathers would think about the possibilities regarding both Cleveland and Philadelphia. Perhaps they would be enamoured of the idea of sea change taking hold against a country that has become a corporatist country: a concept that didn’t exist in their day.

Bruce Springsteen Exhibit at the National Constitution Center


David Eisner, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, admires the 1975 simultaneous Springsteen covers of TIME and NEWSWEEK magazines, part of the new exhibit, “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen.”

— by Bonnie Squires

The National Constitution Center is the only venue to host the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s must-see exhibition, From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen, outside of Cleveland, where the exhibit has been housed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.  The first major exhibition about the American songwriter will run at the Center from February 17 to September 3, 2012.

The opening reception attracted 1100 friends and supporters of the Center, including the Honorable Joan Specter, who serves as Director of Major Grants for the Center, and her husband, Senator Arlen Specter.  Mayor Bob Johnson, of Asbury Park, New Jersey, was also in attendance and greeted the guests from the bandstand.

The B Street Band entertained party-goers with rousing Springsteen renditions, and the food was typical boardwalk-seashore variety, including hot dogs, pop corn, cotton candy, and hamburgers.

More after the jump.


The Honorable Joan Specter, Director of Major Gifts at the Center, and her husband Senator Arlen Specter, admire some of the extraordinary photos of Springsteen included in the exhibit.

“It is fitting that the Center – the only museum dedicated to America’s constitutional freedoms – is the first and only venue in the nation to host this exhibition from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum,” said National Constitution Center President and CEO David Eisner.  “We are certain that our visitors, from the most devoted Springsteen fans to those experiencing his music for the first time, will be inspired by his commitment to illuminating the struggles and triumphs of `We the People.'”

“I worked very closely with Bruce and his organization to put this exhibit together,” said Jim Henke, vice president of exhibitions and chief curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  “It’s a comprehensive look at Bruce’s entire career and contains numerous items that have never been seen by the public.  The exhibit was a huge hit when it was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I am very happy that even more people will be able to see it now that it’s at the National Constitution Center.”

From Asbury Park to the Promised Land takes a comprehensive look at Springsteen’s career and catalog, from such early bands as Child, the Castiles and Steel Mill through his work with the E Street Band and as a solo artist.  Throughout the 5,000-square-foot exhibition, visitors will have the rare opportunity to view more than 150 items, including:


Robin and David Alpher were among the 1100 people enjoying the opening beach party for the Springsteen exhibit, on loan from the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.

  • Family photos of Springsteen’s childhood in Asbury Park, N.J.
  • Scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings, photos and handbills from Springsteen’s early music endeavors
  • Handwritten lyrics from all phases of Springsteen’s career
  • Saxophone used by the late Clarence Clemons to play the solo in “Jungleland” from Born to Run
  • Springsteen’s 1960 Chevrolet Corvette
  • Springsteen’s Fender Esquire from the cover of Born to Run
  • The outfit Springsteen wore on the cover of Born in the U.S.A.
  • Springsteen’s 1993 Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Streets of Philadelphia”

The exhibition also features several listening stations where visitors can hear never-before-released songs by the Castiles; Springsteen’s successful 1972 audition for Columbia Records; and interviews with Springsteen on topics such as his songwriting process, his first recording session, and some of his best known albums.  Video footage throughout the exhibition includes archival performances, an edited version of Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born to Run, and clips of Springsteen’s appearance on MTV Unplugged in 1992.

To complement the exhibition, the Center’s public programming staff is developing a variety of interactive programs and activities for students, teachers and families about the importance of free expression.  The Center also is planning a series of special events celebrating the music of Bruce Springsteen.


Celia Feinstein (third from the right), director of Temple University’s Institute on Disabilities, brought her colleagues along who love Springsteen’s music.

Admission to From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen is $24.50 for adults, $23 for seniors and students and $12 for children ages 4-12.  Group rates also are available.  Admission to the Center’s main exhibition, The Story of We the People, including the award-winning theater production Freedom Rising, is included.  For ticket information, call 215.409.6700 or visit www.constitutioncenter.org.

CBS 3 and The CW Philly are the local media partners for the exhibition.  CBS 3 (KYW-TV) and The CW Philly 57 (WPSG-TV) are part of CBS Television Stations, a division of CBS Corporation.

Photo Credit: Bonnie Squires.


Bob and Sybie Brassler paid tribute to the rock and roll music icon.

Herschel and Betsy Richman enjoy the Asbury Park-like treats at the opening reception, while enjoying the sounds of Springsteen’s rock and roll hits.