The summer sounds of Penn's Landing


Keeya Bran­son-Dav­is has been lin­ing up free river­front en­ter­tain­ment for Phil­adelphi­ans for 14 years.

As dir­ect­or of pro­gram­ming for the Delaware River Wa­ter­front Corp. (the suc­cessor to Penn’s Land­ing Corp.), she mixes crowd fa­vor­ites with new acts.

For a dec­ade, she sat­is­fied audi­ences with a cer­tain jazz fa­vor­ite.

“If it was the third Fri­day of Au­gust, a Steve Cole con­cert was go­ing to hap­pen,” she said of the pop­u­lar sax­o­phone play­er.

Cole is back again, but this time as part of a smooth jazz Sax Pack con­cert with Kim Wa­ters and Jeff Kashi­wa on Aug. 12.

“To have all three artists on­stage will be quite a treat,” she said.

At the same time, Bran­son-Dav­is likes to book new faces for the loy­al crowds.

“We like to of­fer dif­fer­ent things,” she said. “There are so many tal­en­ted people in Phil­adelphia and bey­ond. They should get to play on the stage in front of their ho­met­own audi­ence.”

Free river­front en­ter­tain­ment has been a Phil­adelphia staple since 1983. Today, the Delaware River Wa­ter­front Corp. — formed in Janu­ary 2009 — is in charge.

The wa­ter­front isn’t dormant in the cold weath­er months. The out­door Blue Cross River­Rink is open for ice skat­ing from the day after Thanks­giv­ing to early March.

While the bulk of the up­com­ing activ­it­ies will take place in the sum­mer months, the fun is already un­der­way. It star­ted May 5 with an all-you-can-eat ice cream fest­iv­al and won’t wrap up un­til Oct. 9, when the Phil­adelphia Or­ches­tra puts on a con­cert.

In its time, the Penn’s Land­ing Corp. fo­cused on the area from Spring Garden Street to Wash­ing­ton Av­en­ue. The Delaware River Wa­ter­front Corp. plans activ­it­ies along a lar­ger stretch of Colum­bus Boulevard, from Al­legheny to Ore­gon av­en­ues.

Still, the bulk of the events will take place at Fest­iv­al Pier at Spring Garden Street and the Great Plaza at Chest­nut Street.

The shows will go on, un­less there is light­ning or a heavy rain­fall, for five-plus months.

“The pro­gram­ming has been en­hanced each year,” Bran­son-Dav­is said. “It’s def­in­itely got­ten big­ger and bet­ter.”

Some events, of course, are more pop­u­lar than oth­ers.

In all, there are 11 mul­ti­cul­tur­al fest­ivals.

“All of the eth­nic fest­ivals draw large crowds,” Bran­son-Dav­is said.

The highest-at­ten­ded ones in­clude the Ir­ish-Amer­ic­an Fest­iv­al (June 5), the His­pan­ic Fiesta (Ju­ly 9-10) and the Glob­al Fu­sion Fest­iv­al (Ju­ly 16). Bran­son-Dav­is said the past turnout has been “massive” for those parties.

Oth­er high­lights in­clude a Ju­ly 3 con­cert star­ring former Amer­ic­an Idol con­test­ant Tim Urb­an and Han­nah Montana star Emily Os­ment; Screen­ing Un­der the Stars, an out­door large-screen movie series every Thursday night in Ju­ly and Au­gust; a jazz series con­cert every Fri­day night in Au­gust, with Kev­in Eu­banks head­lining on Aug. 26; a doo-wop fest­iv­al on Sept. 17; a pre­view of film­maker Ken Burns’ Pro­hib­i­tion on Oct. 2; and, of course, mul­tiple fire­works spec­tac­u­lars.

Each event fea­tures food and mer­chand­ise vendors, and there are dif­fer­ent looks to the stage setup.

“It’s Penn’s Land­ing, but it nev­er looks the same way twice,” Bran­son-Dav­is said.

The crowds in­clude tour­ists who are already in town and learn of the river­front en­ter­tain­ment.

The biggest per­cent­age, though, comes from Phil­adelphia-area res­id­ents who want to en­joy the river­front while be­ing en­ter­tained by mar­quee tal­ent. Some come week after week, year after year. Oth­ers come less fre­quently.

In a sput­ter­ing eco­nomy, the free pro­grams al­low folks to spend their money on es­sen­tials.

“I like to think that our mis­sion is needed more than ever,” Bran­son-Dav­is said. “People de­serve to have qual­ity en­ter­tain­ment. To do it for free is one of the great gifts Phil­adelphia gives to its cit­izens.”

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

Happy Land­ing …

The Delaware River Wa­ter­front Cor­por­a­tion will be of­fer­ing free events through Oc­to­ber.

For a lineup of guests or more in­form­a­tion, call 215-922-2FUN or vis­it www.delaware­


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