As President and CEO of Welcome America (welcomeamerica.com), Michael DelBene is fervent about delivering on its mission of creating and producing engaging, accessible, family-friendly programming through its two main festivals—Wawa Welcome America and the Philly Holiday Experience. Here, he chats with us about what experiences are on tap this year, what’s to come in the years ahead and why he loves to dream big.The events that DelBene and his team dream up are responsible for bringing in over a million visitors a year to Philly.
Talk a bit about your role with Welcome America. Why do you love doing what you do?
My job is to conceptualize and visualize what the festivals will look like, the components that will comprise each festival, the talent that will perform and the messaging that we communicate surrounding the exciting events, activations and programming that have contributed to making these festivals among the largest, and top-ranked festivals, nationally and globally. I love this job because I get to do two of my favorite things—dream big and make dreams a reality. I truly believe anyone who can do this for a living has the best job in the world. What’s even greater is that I get to do this for a city I love.
How does it make you feel that your work impacts so many Philadelphia experiences for Philadelphians and visitors alike?
It’s truly the greatest reward. My team and I can create something for Philadelphians and visitors to enjoy, and we also have the pleasure of watching and enjoying it alongside them. Every day during the events we produce, we have the privilege of dancing with festivalgoers, reading books to kids, watching in awe of fireworks, learning more about the history of our great city and participating in impactful conversations we’re fostering about inclusivity and multiculturism.
What’s so great about the new Philly Holiday Experience? Why is this a must-attend event and what are some highlights?
Holidays in Philadelphia are the most wonderful time of year. For another consecutive year, the Philly Holiday Experience will be bigger and better in so many ways. There will be more to experience, more celebrations to attend, more chances to engage neighbors, more shopping, vendors, music and so much more. We’re continually committed to expanding, amplifying, and growing the Philly Holiday Experience, improving each year and making it one of the greatest holiday festivals in the nation. We’re excited for what’s to come this year and continuing our exciting growth trajectory. Stay tuned for details, but I can share that our tree lighting headliner will be bigger than any we’ve had before!
You’re playing a pivotal role in America 250. Any sneak peeks you can give us about what’s on tap?
I’m one of many people playing a pivotal role in celebrating our nation’s 250th birthday, as well as the entire 2026 year, which will be historic for so many reasons. Passionate leaders will work day and night to ensure the celebrations are year-long from January to December and will be built around showcasing the best that Philly was, is and will be—which is really special. Some experiences, events and happenings will be new—most notably the Major League Baseball All-Star game and the FIFA World Cup—and others will be enhanced versions of programming that Philadelphians have come to know and love from their city, including an expanded 35-day Wawa Welcome America festival. We’re setting the foundation for Philadelphia to be a national leader in 250th anniversary celebrations and we take great pride in our commitment and responsibility to make it as exceptional as possible. After all, this is the place where it all began.
Photography by: RACHEL ROSENSTIEN